Hackney's £1.2m family retreat mansion will be like a high-security 'prison'
PUBLISHED: 07:00 11 August 2016 | UPDATED: 08:00 11 August 2016
A leafy £1.2million estate bought by Hackney Council as a peaceful getaway for "at-risk" families will first be transformed into a high-security fortress because of neighbours' fears.
Silver Trees, a seven-bedroom mansion in Oxfordshire village Kennington, was bought in February as part of an innovative project to provide short-term support to those in need.
But conditions imposed by Vale of White Horse District Council mean the latest plans for the site feature 2.1-metre “anti-climb metal mesh fencing”, six “dome cameras”, one “bullet camera” and outside lighting.
This is down to neighbours’ fears over, among other things, crime and safety. A report reads: “Strong local objections have been made regarding the suitability of the site as a location where families from a London borough will receive support, and over the fear of trespass and other forms of disruptive behaviour.”
However, Kennington Parish Council made no objections to the original planning application, saying there was only a small percentage of villagers against the idea.
Chairman Colin Charlett has now questioned the need for “excessively high fences and CCTV”. He told the Gazette: “Our feeling is the 2m security fence, CCTV and floodlights makes you wonder if it’s going to be more like a prison. We thought it was for these families to have some respite.” Vale of White Horse’s Cllr Edward Blagrove said neighbours just wanted to feel safe and it wasn’t a case of nimbyism.
Hackney will offer the retreat to up to three families at a time. They will then spend up to three weeks “strengthening relationships”, while children will receive on-site education.
Social workers will identify families for stays at the estate, which includes a communal lounge, play room and private woods.
The town hall was given a grant by the Department for Education to help with running costs for the project and submitted the latest plans in May.
A decision was pencilled in for June, but that has been delayed while Hackney pushes for fewer security measures, such as only installing one CCTV camera on site.
A Hackney spokesman said discussions were ongoing with Vale of White Horse over the security measures.
He said: “We feel what we have proposed strikes the right balance. Of course there will be some security measures in place – these will include one camera and we are in discussions about fencing, as requested by a local resident.
“We want to be a good neighbour, so we are happy to consider issues when raised.”
A spokesman for Vale and White Horse said its officers were waiting for amended proposals from Hackney before proceeding with the application.