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Wrong area for Archway homeless shelter

22 June, 2018

Shop where homeless shelter is planned

• SHELTER from the Storm (SFTS) talks of its proposed plans to turn our local shop into a night shelter for the homeless, (Shelter bids to calm Archway estate fears over homeless, June 15).

If SFTS is so keen to allay the fears of those of us living in close proximity to the proposed shelter, why has there been no wider consultation or public meeting?

It has made no efforts whatsoever to talk to us as a group despite the fact that we are those most likely to be affected if the proposal goes ahead.

The first we heard of the proposal was when consultation letters for the proposed change of use dropped through our doors over two weeks ago, when the shop had been empty for only six weeks. Letters were sent to a handful of the closest properties, presumably the minimum required by planning law.

We are a close, friendly neighbourhood and word soon spread among residents, many of whom are extremely upset that they have not been included in the consultation process and have already voiced strong objections to Islington Planning despite not receiving letters.

Our concerns are not mere “nimbyism”, nor are they a judgement on the character of the guests themselves. We do not think they are “raging or angry people”.

We recognise there is a need for homeless shelters but this is totally the wrong type of area to place one. Although densely packed with mixed housing, this is a quiet, residential area.

While accepting that SFTS has “zero tolerance of drink or drugs” and “runs a tight ship” within its projects, it has no control over what happens to guests outside, while arriving or dispersing the shelter twice daily.

Some guests may be vulnerable and could easily be targeted by drug dealers. The guests’ presence in large numbers arriving and leaving will attract attention and SFTS’s assurances that the location will remain secret is impossible to achieve. Up to 42 homeless guests a night arriving (the equivalent of almost four football teams) cannot be hidden.

In addition, the proposed outdoors smoking area would be open from 6pm to midnight and would have no restriction on numbers from 6pm to 9.30pm and 7am to 8am each morning. Anyone walking along that road would clearly see them and could try to interact with them.

Noise and smoke pollution from this smoking area is another aspect of the proposal that residents strongly object to. Those on the walkway directly above will have unacceptable levels of conversation noise and smoke, evenings and early mornings 365 days a year.

Due to the way the buildings relate to each other, sound bounces around between the blocks and gets amplified. Surprisingly, this is not mentioned in SFTS’s acoustic assessment.

The proposed new night entrance and smoking area would cause noise pollution and therefore sleep disturbance to bedrooms above and facing the proposed development.

SFTS says that “once they’re in they’re in”, implying that once guests arrive in the early evening they are locked in and invisible till early morning. This simply isn’t true because of the outside smoking area is open to the road.

Another major concern of residents is that there is a school less than 100 yards from the proposed shelter entrance/exit. Children use that route to walk unaccompanied to school each morning at the very time the 42 guests will be leaving. This is inappropriate and raises possible child safeguarding issues.

Shelter from the Storm says it wants to provide “a warm, safe, peaceful haven” for guests yet seems to be quite happy to impact on the peace and safety of residents and schoolchildren by creating anxiety, uncertainty and further crowding in this densely populated area.

Islington Council has already turned a former pensioners’ dining club into flats, allowed a pub and beer garden to be turned into flats, built properties above garages and has passed plans for even more new properties in the next few years.

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