Next Tuesday, Wyre Forest District Council’s application to build a homeless shelter in Stourport goes in front of the council’s planning committee.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about this and it was brought to my attention by a council officer that I had misled readers. I stated that the council bought the site in question – the old Lloyds Garage site on Bridge Street – under a compulsory purchase order. This was not correct and references an article in this newspaper on the 5th December 2010, “Stourport Garage Owner Slams Wyre Forest Council”, talks at length about the £30,000 legal battle fought by Lloyds owner Paul Mitchell. In the end, he was ground down by the process, talking about “…our battle with the council that we lost to the bully with the big stick.” He opted to take the money offered by the council to save himself from further legal costs. So, to be clear, the council did not buy the site under a CPO and I apologise for misleading readers.
The site was bought, according to the article, as “… part of our larger redevelopment plans for opening up the entrance to the canal basins…” And it is for this reason that local businesses in Stourport are dismayed at the council’s application for the site to be used as a homeless centre.
The council has been unable to deliver on its promise from all those years ago and is now looking for a different use. But this is a significant change of plans and significant investment by the council of taxpayers’ money.
What I find most troubling about all this is that given the investment, the council has been unable to give me their analysis that this is the most appropriate provision for those in need – the homeless.
Homelessness extends from those who find themselves falling between leases, or temporarily unable to pay rent, all the way to rough sleepers who may have complex needs over and above their need for shelter. They always need access to medical provision, and that can be provided by the GP surgery in Stourport. But what about benefits and finding a new job? Or training? Or more complex medical needs? The nearest Job Centre, college and hospital is 5 miles away.
Any home is better than no home, but given this is a brand new, expensive development at the taxpayers’ cost, should WFDC not at least have done some work to make sure the proposals are the very best we can do for those in need?