Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Block on flats

May 22 2009
Bromsgrove residents up in arms about ¬¨¬£1.7m development of young people‘s flats Plans to build a block of flats for young homeless people face further opposition after a residents' campaign against the scheme was widened to cover the whole of Bromsgrove, Worcestershire. The Foyer development, one of 130 similar schemes nationwide, would see 15 new flats built to accommodate people aged 16-25. Training, education, preparation for work and learning life skills would also be provided. However, according to The Bromsgrove Advertiser, local residents claimed the "largely unsupervised" project could lead to a sharp rise in antisocial, criminal and other serious problems. While residents' association chairman Katie Baylis insisted "we are not against the scheme in principle and we realise there is a need for this type of accommodation... we firmly believe the proposed site at Aston Fields is in the wrong place." A public meeting, arranged by the residents' group, was planned for 24th July to organise a 'fighting fund' and draw up a petition against the development to cover the whole of Bromsgrove. The ¬¨¬£1.7m development is being built on the site of disused offices and garages near the town's main train station. The planning is being carried out by the West Mercia Housing Group in partnership with Bromsgrove District Council, Worcestershire County Council's Supporting People team and the Housing Corporation. Lisa Mason, head of new business at West Mercia Housing Group, rejected the local paper's description of the project as "largely unsupervised". "Initially, we were looking at three months of 24-hour supervision on site," explained Mrs Mason. "After that period, a support worker on site from 8am to 10pm, on-call service throughout the night and at weekends, as well as CCTV and ground-floor access to police". However, she added that in response to residents' concerns, there would now be 24-hour supervision for six months. "Supporting People have agreed to fund this and we are looking at ways to provide 24-hour supervision for even longer than that," she said. "There's also the possibility of having a night porter or concierge, similar to those in students' halls of residence, if the housing benefit can pay for that. So, no, it's not fair to say the project will be largely unsupervised". Mrs Mason also highlighted the crime statistics in Hereford from before and after the building of other Foyers in the area, which showed the crime rate actually fell. While Mrs Mason did not attribute this to the building of the Foyer itself, she said it showed that residents need not fear a rise in crime levels following the development in Bromsgrove. A group from the residents' association recently visited three other Foyer schemes, and "worryingly", according to The Bromsgrove Advertiser, reported that a policeman had told them that on one other site all the young tenants had been evicted. Mrs Mason explained to The Pavement that while the eviction had indeed occurred, it was because of support and management issues and lack of police involvement. When the absence of a proper support framework inevitably led to the situation at the Foyer going wrong, the young residents were evicted and a "close working relationship" was set up with local police to avoid the same thing happening again. The UK Foyer network was launched in 1992 from a model first introduced in France, and which has since been transported across the world. The UK network now supports over 10,000 homeless 16- to 25-year-olds each year and a new Foyer opens on average one a month. According to the Foyer website, their scheme helps young people at risk escape the 'no home-no job-no home' cycle. Part of the aim of the charity is to work with local communities and encourage their young residents to integrate. To foster links, many Foyer facilities can be used by nonresidents in addition to a number of open programmes and schemes, for example in community education. Mrs Mason also highlighted plans to bring in a steering group management committee and involve the residents committee in this.