Monday, April 27, 2009

Tiverton House Update

I've spent a fair amount of time over the last few weeks working on the Tiverton House issue.

Tiverton House was built as recently as the 1980s as sheltered housing for the elderly. The Council has long needed to bring their sheltered accommodation up to modern standards, and in their wisdom the Lib Dems decided to flog off Tiverton House to the highest bidder, to fund improvements elsewhere in the City. 

At no stage in the process has the Council considered what effect unsuitable alternative uses would have on the local area, and pressed on with the sale in the midst of a recession regardless. Last December I wrote to senior officials pleading not to sell Tiverton House for student accommodation. I asked questions in Council - yes we need to bring it back into use after 14 months empty, but it needs to be a suitable use.

My pleas, along with those from other ward Councillors were ignored. At the end of March we were informed that exchange of contracts was imminent, the purchasers likely intended use was for student accommodation, and the Council was even going to let work start before contract completion in May.

Since then I have chased up concerns about unreasonable working hours, but mostly tried to understand what powers we as Councillors have to object to student accommodation, and to make sure local residents and Councillors get some say. About a week ago I had an irate phone call from the new owner of the site, wanting to know why I was criticising his plans, how do I know what local residents want, and I should stop opposing his plans. Having spoken to many local residents about this issue over the last few weeks, I am confident that high density student accommodation in this area is not what people want, and I will fight to ensure everyones voice is heard, not ignored as the Council has done to date.

This seems to be an issue we agree with Labour on, so on Friday, along with one of our three Labour Councillors, I met with a senior planning official to discuss the potential planning implications.

The situation is complicated by the fact that their has been no formal planning application submitted, but we are confident that a number of possible elements of the new owners plan (e.g. converting guest rooms or shared spaces into flats, creating new entrances) will require planning permission, and rest assured we will be doing all we can to ensure any such changes come before a planning committee so local residents and Councillors will have the best possible chance of opposing undesirable plans for the site, and make sure issues like parking and refuse collection are fully considered.

At the meeting on Friday we also discussed a number of other approaches to the problem and want to setup a series of meetings with other parts of the Council. We have also asked to see copies of the sale agreements and any other conditions of sale - if the Council has failed in its duty to protect local residents interests, we will be holding the Liberal Democrats to account, because it is their misguided decision to sell this property rather than refurbish it that led to the current intolerable situation.


Anonymous said...

I am afraid this is happening all over the country. It is extremely doubtful. if these houses were built in the 1980s. that they would fail the Government Decent Homes Standard, which is very low and homes have to fail three of the six criteria to be declared sub-standard.
The most likely reason for this sale is probably because of the Government messing about with Sheltered Housing and their ill thought out move in relocating Sheltered Housing in the orbit of Supporting People. To put it quite simply there is no money to be made from Sheltered Housing these days . As many councils and Registered Social Landlords have already discovered the home itself is sitting on some £2m worth of land. So sell it off with the proviso that the buyer builds 'affordable homes on the site'. Pocket £2m , get affordable homes, the only loser the elderly who have been chucked out !

Vernon J Yarker
The Sheltered Housing UK Association

anna smith said...

Lets apply the logic spanner to the nuts of this situation.

'Granny' is traditionally either a life long labour or conservative voter.

Also remember Granny doesn't normally ride a bike - and in Cambridge that means you are a nobody!

Students in protest at tuition fees have flocked to the Lib Dems and have the added benefit of being Council tax exempt- a good position to be in if you live in Cambridge.

An application to turn elderly accomodation into student accomodation is a great way of boosting the lib Dem vote. Far easier than the hard work of doorstep canvassing.

This is no different from what went on at Westminister (Dame Shirley Porter) in the 1980's or the GLC's 'policy' of building the Tories out of London in the 1970's. Now the Lib Dems are getting in on the act too!

Watch out Chris You are being gerrymandered out of seat by Cambridge's answer to Zanu PF - the lib Dems.