Homeless shelter approved after last minute change of heart

This Is Local London: Common sense: Tony Popham, right, made a last minute change Common sense: Tony Popham, right, made a last minute change

A temporary homeless shelter will be set up in East Molesey next year, after an Elmbridge councillor changed his mind on the project at the 11th hour.

Molesey Residents’ Association member Tony Popham said it was “common sense” to withdraw his opposition to plans to turn Radnor House in Hansler Grove into a night refuge for homeless people between January and March 2014.

The proposal by Transform Housing looked to have stalled at a meeting last week when Coun Popham, supported by party colleague Ian T Donaldson, deferred the decision to a full planning committee on January 14.

That would have delayed the opening of the project by up to two weeks.

But as the north area planning sub-committee adjourned late on Wednesday night, it was announced Coun Popham – who left early to tend to his sick daughter – had withdrawn his request for deferral.

The scheme will now open in mid-January until the end of March, offering accommodation for up to eight people a night, between 5.30pm and 8am.

Explaining his decision, Coun Popham said: “At full planning it would have gone through anyway, and all we were doing was a delaying tactic for two weeks.

“The project has merit, we don’t dispute that, and nothing is really gained by holding it back.

“Once it had been approved they [Transform] would have been trying to set something up very quickly, whereas now they have time to be effective and run the project properly.

“It was common sense to withdraw the referral.”

The scheme has met opposition from residents who believe the shelter, close to the Orchard School in Bridge Road, could attract criminals and drug users.

At the meeting on Wednesday, objector Isabel Haines said Radnor House was an unsuitable location for the scheme, and called for Elmbridge Council to find a better, more lasting solution to combat homelessness.

Andrea Cannon, Transform’s director of client strategy and delivery, said: “If somebody is homeless it does not necessarily follow that they are a criminal.

“The residents’ concerns are far in excess of the reality of this project.”

Mrs Cannon said it was likely only three to five people would use the shelter each night.

Speaking after the meeting, she said: “I am very pleased that our application has been successful.

“This means that there will be an emergency shelter for local people from the Elmbridge area who find themselves homeless this winter.”

The shelter will not admit people on the door and anyone in need of accommodation will be assessed off site. It will not return next year, Mrs Cannon added.

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