Students move into homeless hostel in London Colney

PUBLISHED: 12:26 17 November 2009 | UPDATED: 14:39 06 May 2010

MORE than a hundred university students have moved into a former hostel for the homeless in London Colney. The old Ridgeview hostel in Barnet Road has been cleaned, refurbished and furnished to accommodate undergraduates in need of housing because of a sh

MORE than a hundred university students have moved into a former hostel for the homeless in London Colney.

The old Ridgeview hostel in Barnet Road has been cleaned, refurbished and furnished to accommodate undergraduates in need of housing because of a shortage of accommodation close to the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield.

The decision to lease the building to the university, which moved in the students on Monday, came out of the blue because the district council had always maintained it needed to sell off Ridgeview to help pay for the multi-million pound redevelopment of Westminster Lodge.

But leader of the council, Cllr Robert Donald, explained that the council had enough cash flow up until 2012 to cover the building costs for the new leisure centre.

He said: "We have enough capital receipts to proceed by which time hopefully land costs will have risen so we can maximise the amount of gain on the site.

"In the meantime the building is earning us money and is being maintained and kept in good order for us."

He stressed that the university only had a one-year lease at the moment as there were already prospective buyers in the offing.

He added: "We are already negotiating over the possible sale of the site but we are in no rush and will be aiming to secure the highest possible price."

It is believed the site is worth in excess of £15 million.

But prospective Labour MP Cllr Roma Mills pooh-poohed the notion that developers were lining up to buy the site.

She said: "If they had serious interest they would have sold it. I am so angry and depressed that one of our main safety nets for homeless people in this city has been emptied - allegedly for sale but has now been leased out to the university.

"Ridgeview was not ideal but the site could have been used to re-provide a smaller purpose-built unit for the homeless there. We have so many people in desperate need with nowhere for them to go."

But Cllr Donald did not accept that homeless tenants could have been kept in the building if the money was not needed urgently for the Westminster Lodge scheme. He said: "Shared accommodation is not suitable for homeless families and Government guidelines dictate that independent units should be sought to re-house people."

A spokesperson for the university confirmed that around £100,000 had been spent on cleaning and repainting the building and buying new boilers, beds and mattresses for the students.

She said: "It has obviously been brightened up for the students. It is not ideal for us because of the distance involved but it will be a useful stop-gap measure."

Work on the multi-million pound Westminster Lodge leisure centre project is due to start next year.

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