Row over decision to close hostel

PUBLISHED: 18:13 12 September 2008 | UPDATED: 13:34 06 May 2010

Ridgeview hostel is due to be closed by next August

Ridgeview hostel is due to be closed by next August

A DECISION to close a hostel for the homeless by next August -- five years after it was first mooted - has been derided as having all the vision of three blind mice . London Colney councillor Dreda Gordon, who has Ridgeview in Barnet Road in her ward, d

A DECISION to close a hostel for the homeless by next August -- five years after it was first mooted - has been derided as having "all the vision of three blind mice". London Colney councillor Dreda Gordon, who has Ridgeview in Barnet Road in her ward, described the notion of moving out all 64 current residents of the hostel by next August as acting with indecent haste

She told Wednesday's full meeting of St Albans District Council: "It is causing huge concern in people's minds. We are looking for proper reprovision before it is closed."

The decision to close Ridgeview, which has occupied its site since 1967, was taken earlier this summer by the council which intends to use some of the proceeds from its sale towards the cost of replacing Westminster Lodge Recreation Centre in St Albans.

Cllr Gordon said that there was no argument that Ridgeview had outgrown its usefulness and the Labour group had suggested that something needed to be done in 2003.

She added: "But it was turned down by the portfolio holder with all the vision of three blind mice."

Cllr Gordon said that at that time there had been money available to provide similar accommodation for the residents with proper support services. She added: "Move on to 2008 and what is happening. We have a large leisure facility which needs money and we are going to get it by flogging off Ridgeview. There has been no regard for residents of that particular facility, people who have been there for 20 years some of them."

Cllr Gordon questioned how, with 976 people on the council's housing waiting list wanting one-bedroomed accommodation, the council was going to rehouse Ridgeview people needing the same.

Council leader, Cllr Robert Donald, stressed that they would not close Ridgeview until suitable accommodation had been found for all the residents there. He added: "We will be putting considerable funding from the selling off of Ridgeview into reprovision and we estimate it will run into some millions.

"There is going to be at least one small scheme if not two and we have made a commitment that the first use of any proceeds from the sale of Ridgeview will go to that reprovision."

He accused referral agencies of misusing Ridgeview by leaving people in there for long periods when it was never intended to be anything but a short-stay hostel.

Labour group leader, Cllr Roma Mills, pointed out that many of the residents of Ridgeview had mental-health or chronic alcohol problems and required specialist provision which needed to be provided ahead of the Ridgeview closure.

She reminded the council that meals were provided for people in Ridgeview who wanted them and added: "The report talks about signposting to private residential accommodation. Don't you think that would have been done if it could?

"In 12 months you cannot reprovide accommodation and there are going to be real issues around location and planning. This is critical for these people - partner providers are very concerned about this and so am I.

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