Campaign group launched to fight plan for homeless accommodation in St Albans city centre

St Claire's nursing home on Church Crescent

St Claire's nursing home on Church Crescent - Credit: Archant

A petition has been launched to stop a controversial scheme to turn a former care home into temporary accommodation for homeless people in St Albans city centre.

Campaigners have formed the St Claire’s Action Group to fight Hightown Praetorian and Churches Housing Association’s plans to alter the use of St Claire’s in Church Crescent.

The group was initiated after there were angry scenes at a recent public meeting on the scheme, which proposes providing 16 bedrooms with shared bathrooms for people who have made a homeless application to St Albans district council and need temporary housing until they find permanent accommodation.

Some locals fear that the safety of children living near the home - once used to accommodate people with mental health problems – would be compromised.

Housing support staff would be available during the day and a concierge would be present overnight.

A representative of the action group said that its aim was to encourage Hightown to hold “proper consultation with residents and stakeholders prior to submitting a planning application”.

She said that would also enable debate on possible alternative uses for St Claire’s.

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The spokeswoman added: “A lot of local people feel that more long-term accommodation for those in need on a much smaller scale would be far more appropriate, and safeguards could then be built-in to ensure the local community feel reassured, specifically in relation to the very young, elderly and mentally ill members of our community [at nearby Albany Lodge].”

The council has been forwarded the group’s e-petition, signed by 230 residents.

St Albans MP Anne Main said she was aware of criticism of the plan, particularly as other homeless accommodation had been closed down by the council.

They include a hostel in London Colney - Ridgeview - which the council closed six years ago to help fund the new Westminster Lodge leisure centre.

She said the council should take into consideration the depth of feeling among those neighbouring St Claire’s, adding, “people are naturally nervous”.

David Bogle, chief executive of Hightown, has said there is a need for short-stay accommodation for homeless people in the district.

And when news of the scheme broke in the Herts Ad last month, some locals immediately voiced their support.

They said that opponents of the plan needed to see the, “bigger picture as resettling into a secure home, even temporarily, can be a catalyst to improving a person’s future”.

Campaigners have also been urged by supporters to show more compassion, and that “just because someone is homeless, it doesn’t mean they are a bad person, or a danger to children.

“It just means they’ve had some problems and ended up homeless. Not everyone can afford nice big houses or even a poky little flat.”