Hackney Council’s Oxford greenbelt ‘troubled’ families respite centre is one step closer

Silver Trees

Silver Trees - Credit: Archant

Hackney Council is deciding whether to buy and convert a £1.25m family home in the Oxford greenbelt into a pioneering respite centre for troubled inner city families – despite it only being awarded planning permission for one single year.

The property in Kennington

The property in Kennington - Credit: Archant

The Gazette reported in June that the plans had stirred up a backlash amongst neighbours, who feared the loss of their tranquil village life and a drop in their properties’ value.

The council has put in an offer on the seven-bedroom property, which comes complete with a “bespoke treehouse” and ancient wood in Kennington, and had anonymously submitted plans to Vale of White Horse Council to change its residential use.

Its planning committee raised concerns about matters unrelated to planning issues and finding no grounds for refusal has granted temporary planning permission which would be reviewed after one year from the start of occupation.

With nearly £2m funding from the Department for Education’s Innovation programme, which explores fresh ways of working in children’s social work, the plan is to house up to three families at a time and provide them with a break away in a “home away from home” for up to three weeks, allowing them to strengthen family relationships. Young people at risk of gang involvement or sexual exploitation, and families with younger children who are also on the edge of going into care will be targeted.

The council is now deciding whether to go ahead and make the purchase, and has entered into negotiations who will be liable for disposal of the 6,000 tonnes of waste that has been illegally dumped there.

Nearby resident, Matthew Batstone said: “Buying Silver Trees risks landing Hackney Council with a polluted mansion in the Oxford green belt which, when planning permission lapses, would to all intents and purposes become a useless white elephant.

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“We do not see how this represents good value for Hackney council tax payers in the context of the budget cuts the council must make.”

A spokesman for the council said: “We are now considering our options to best move forward with this exciting project, which we hope will benefit many children and families. We’ve been really touched by the support shown by many of the local residents who have already made us feel so welcome.”