“Enough!” Harlow headteacher speaks out over “office block pupils”
Education: Primary / Mon 18th Mar 2019 am31 09:06am
A HARLOW headteacher has spoken out over the number of “very vulnerable” children from controversial converted office blocks that are coming to her school.
Bernadette Miele is the head of Tany’s Dell primary on Mowbray Road in Harlow. Since 2017, she has had a large number of children from Templefields House as well as other converted blocks on or near Edinburgh Way.
But Ms Miele is now saying “enough” as these transient and vulnerable pupils are clearly having a number of negative impacts on the school says the head.
The head stresses that the children are victims of circumstances and all agencies are going at great lengths to stress that the children are not to blame.
She has been supported by local councillor and governor, cllr Danny Purton as well as Harlow MP Robert Halfon.
YH went down to the school to speak to Ms Miele and find out more.
Well just to remind readers that it was Robert Halfon's government who introduced the ill conceived legislation to allow office conversions without the need for Planning Permission and Harlow's Labour controlled Council who could have put the brakes on such conversions as long ago as 2014. In the meantime, Harlow Council has used such flats for housing homeless families and has very recently given Planning Permission for new flats to be created in Broadwalk, so compounding the problem even further. Most of these flats are unsuitable for families,families whose friends, relatives and those providing support are often many miles away. I know that councils from as far away as Lewisham and Southend are placing families in Harlow. Both main political parties should be ashamed of the part they have played in creating the situation that hundreds of thousands of families across the country find themselves in.Trying to build the country's way out of the housing crisis by allowing builders (by the way Persimmons made over £1 billion profit last year and the COE was paid £75 million) to build large or expensive homes will do nothing to help the people most in need of housing.
Dear Sir, I'm not sure that Harlow council could have stopped this, how could they have put the brakes on such conversions as long ago as 2014? As you have pointed out above the developers don't need planning permission from Harlow council when converting the an office block in to housing, as far as I'm aware Harlow council have always objected to these conversions by developers but have no power to stop them. This whole mess lies squarely with the Tories, Robert Halfon getting on the case is somewhat bizarre on a par with standing up for Harlow's libraries having voted for cuts that force such actions on struggling councils.
I've lived in this building that you speak of for 2 years with 2 children 1 of them is of schooling age and is doing excellently at there school to quote her teacher "couldn't ask for more she is doing perfectly" but then again she doesn't go to Tany Dell's, and instead of these people trying to bash Caridon in the media like the politicians, journalists and now the head teacher of the school, maybe if you don't like the way things are you should work with them to get things up to standard, because if they had there way and this building got closed down, we're the hell are we all going to go? A roof is better then no roof in my eyes.
To be fair to Caridon they were very open with a HDC about plans with Terminus house. They wanted to work with community partners to ensure the tenants became part of the community and not isolated. I can’t comment on others and whilst I feel a office block isn’t suitable for homes an empty office block is useless to everyone. Thank you Danw for your own personal views. Thank you
To respond to andylee133, Harlow Council have the power to use legislation which would require all such developments to go through the Planning system. Council's across the country have been using this legislation since 2014, shortly after such conversions started to take place. Harlow Council have now started to introduce this power, but only in parts of the town. As Durcant rightly says Claridon have done what they can to keep problems to a minimum, but no-one should expect a landlord to be able to deal with problems which families might have, this is the responsibility of ECC whose services are clearly stretched. Problem is, it has been impossible to plan and provide such services in such a short space of time and in trying to deal with such a turn over in the number of families involved.
I believe Tenpin is correct, broadly speaking; perhaps the change of Council Leader had something to do with the labour Council getting to grips with the problem, such as it is. I am sure that Danw is quite right also, in that not all children in this type of accommodation are presenting challenges to local schools. But consecutive Tory and Labour governments have failed to build more appropriate, affordable housing, and carry a shared responsibility. As for Danw's concerns about getting the building shut down, I do not think anyone sees that as a solution. The only solution will be a nationwide council house building plan, to see very substantial investment in housebuilding for social tenants, and actually proper funding for our schools to actually meet the demands and challenges they face, and overcome them.
Dear Sir/Tenpin, It is completely down to Tory changes in planning law, specifically changes to 'permitted development' (PD) rights, which were changed in 2015. Councils did not need to be informed of developments, which as PD’s did not need to go through the normal planning process. From 2015 on, anyone had the right to buy and convert a commercial building without planning. You suggest that the council were too slow to act on this. Bt the article 4 directions, which 'remove' the PD rights, were being successfully challenged in court as recently as March 2018. It has only been in the course of the last year that legal guidelines on precise wording of article 4 directions have given councils the clarity to successfully defend article 4 directions. And guess what? It was last year Harlow Council imposed the restrictions successfully in the 'industrial' areas of the town. It is not reasonable to say that 'they could have taken this legal route 'as far back as 2014. The law did not come into effect until 2015, And between 2015 and 2018 many councils tried this route, but many article 4 directions were overturned in court. And you talk as if this is a guaranteed solution. It isn’t, it simply brings the development within the scope of those requiring planning permission. A council could refuse, a developer appeal, and permission could still be granted on appeal by the Planning Inspectorate/Secretary of State.
Whilst it been interesting to review “who to blame “can we not forget the impact and effect this is having on the families caught up in this situation. These people are looking for somewhere to live that is safe and secure. Many may be fearful they can be moved on and have an uncertain future. Most have jobs and just want somewhere to try and have a nice family life. As a community regardless of how they arrived let not forget the human factor. We’re a caring and compassionate community. Just saying. Thank you.
Well I feel that I must come back on the last two posts, Firstly, many councils were taking legal action as far back as 2014 and Harlow Council could have done the same, no-one was to know at that time that subsequent challenges would take place and whilst many were successful others were not, Harlow Council has still not put in place a town wide order and needs to do so ASAP. bearing in mind the more recent legislation. There is no doubt that to get Planning Permission developers would have had to provide better and more suitable accommodation than without the need for such permission. It has been the case that many such conversions have not been mortgagable and therefore owners have turned to Councils to find tenants, of which there is an increasing supply of homeless families. The trouble is Durcant, many of these families are being placed miles from their support from families and friends. Two families I know of come from South London, in one case the husband was still living there because he could not commute from Harlow each day. One of the families was expecting to go to Colchester. At the end of the day, of the 11000 homes to built in and around Harlow, very few will be social housing and I hope that all three of us can agree that a massive council house building programme catering for families of differing needs will be the only way that this country will ever hope to be able to build itself out of the present housing crisis.
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