Good Afternoon Neighbours,
I just wanted to write a quick note of thanks to everyone who attended last nights meeting with Gavin Barwell.
I feel that the discussion with Gavin and the representatives from the Police, London Assembly and SLYMCA/Palmer House was very constructive and I’ll publish a summary of the points raised as soon as I can.
Until then I thought I would share with you a copy of the Pro-Forma letter kindly prepared by one of the neighbours that you can sign and forward to Gavin either via his email firstname.lastname@example.org or post. (the letter is reproduced below)
It also became apparent that not all of us myself included had the correct telephone number for Palmer House it is 020 7870 8850 and they have promised that this should be answered day and night.
I hope that yesterday’s meeting will mark a new beginning for the relationship we as residents have with SLYMCA and that communications continue to improve.
Thank you all again.
Mr Gavin Barwell, MP,
House of Commons,
Dear Mr Barwell,
re: Palmer House, Lansdowne Road, Croydon
I understand that a meeting has been arranged for you to visit Palmer House on the 31st May.
I understand that the number of residents attending the proposed meeting is restricted but, as a nearby resident, I hope that as our local MP you will be able to put pressure on the South London YMCA management to lessen the problems currently being experienced by residents in the area.
Whilst the opening of a hostel for 60 residents, most with a history of alcohol or drug abuse, in an ordinary residential area was inevitably going to cause some teething problems, residents feel that these problems have been exacerbated by a reluctance on the part of the South London YMCA properly to fund their project.
Visiting hours for non-residents are restricted so that if residents and
non-residents wish to socialise after 8pm, they cannot socialise in the building. They have to socialise outside – often sitting on front walls of nearby properties or sitting on the pavements. Until earlier this month, residents could not bring visitors into the building before 2pm Mondays-Fridays. (This has now been changed to 12 noon.)
These visiting restrictions are unfair on both local residents and residents of Palmer House.
Those Palmer House residents canvassed by local residents would all like to see visiting hours extended.
A request for visitors at least to be allowed to use the toilet facilities at Palmer House has been refused – even though residents have found visitors urinating in their front gardens and against their gates.
Unfortunately, there is nowhere for these residents and their visitors to go in the evening if they wish to socialise. Local cafes are closed. Given their past history for alcohol abuse, it is unfair to expect the Palmer House residents to use local pubs.
Driving them on to the streets also exposes Palmer House residents and their visitors to unnecessary temptation and danger.
Drug dealers have been seen operating in the area, something never seen at the residential end of Lansdowne Road before Palmer House opened. They have even been seen behind Palmer House. Local residents have been accosted in the street while walking to or from their homes and asked for money or cigarettes or just subjected to abuse.
Whether intoxicated by drugs or by alcohol, Palmer House residents and their visitors are seen walking out on to the road – oblivious of passing traffic.
Whilst residents cannot say that the Palmer House residents and their visitors are responsible, crime statistics have jumped since the opening of Palmer House.
A Freedom of Information request has elicited the following crime statistics for postcodes CR0 2BD, CR0 2BE, CR0 2BF, CR0 2BN and CR0 2BS:-
Number of crimes for the Number of crimes for the
four months ending 31st March 2011 four months ending 31st March 2012
These 34 offences can be broken down by the Home Office Category as follows:
Violence against the Person = 8
Burglary and Theft & Handling = 19
Criminal Damage & Other = 7
The likelihood of Palmer House residents and their friends committing anti-social offences would be reduced if they were allowed to socialise inside Palmer House and if they were given some recreational facilities. (At present, they do not even have the use of a table tennis table or pool table and there is no communal television.)
Residents have been told that the South London YMCA cannot afford the additional security which they would need if visiting hours were extended in the evening. The inadequate provisions made for security inside Palmer House has resulted in any issues and problems simply being exported outside into the neighbourhood and local residents’ gardens for long periods of the day.
These considerations should have been taken into account by the South London YMCA when they decided to open Palmer House and from the outset the negative impact of opening such an establishment on the lives of local residents should have been foreseen and countered by the provision of sufficient staff to allow for Palmer House residents to entertain their friends inside the building. If they could not properly finance its running costs, the South London YMCA should not have embarked on the venture. (So saying, residents are aware that they obtained £6m on the sale of their original hostel at the other end of the road.)
Planning permission for the change of purpose of a building within the heart of a previously quiet and peaceful and relatively crime-free residential area from ‘affordable accommodation for people working in essential services’ to ‘supported accommodation for vulnerable young people’ would surely never have been granted by Croydon Council had it been made known that the ‘vulnerable young people’ in question would in actuality be people aged from 18 to 65, most of whom with serious personal problems including long term dependency on alcohol and/or drugs and mental health issues exacerbated by long term homelessness. Certainly it was never made known to local residents when details of the planning application were circulated and their views sought by the council.
The ‘additional’ security now being requested should have been provided from the outset. It would have been clear that the levels of staffing and security which SLYMCA are now claiming cannot be afforded were required to prevent the issues and problems of the residents of Palmer House becoming an issue outside the building and that, without them, the lives of local residents would be adversely affected.
The employment of insufficient security staff has also resulted in the police having to attend at Palmer House. A Freedom of Information request has established that for the eight months ending February 2012, 236 requests were made to attend Palmer House. This is a drain on scarce police resources in Croydon which are already stretched.
Suggestions made by residents for improvements have been refused.
There is at present only one entrance to Palmer House even though the office building on the site beforehand which had fewer visitors had two entrances. This puts unnecessary pressure on this one entrance which is shared with the residents of the new housing association houses built behind nos 109-119, many of whom have young children.
Palmer House residents tend to congregate at this entrance with their friends which is unfair on the other residents living near or using this entrance.
The CCTV system at Palmer House also seems unfit for purpose. Residents have been refused a demonstration and, whilst they were originally assured that the CCTV covered all areas, an admission has recently been made that at least one area is not covered – an area where drug dealing has been seen to take place. Residents suspect that other areas are also not covered.
Whether or not because of failures in their CCTV system or because of short staffing, the security staff in the evening appear reluctant to venture outside in the evening even when Palmer House residents are creating a disturbance or when they are intoxicated and they need to be encouraged to go indoors for their own safety.
The residents also feel abandoned by the council. Having granted planning permission for the development, the council seems unwilling to spend any monies on discouraging anti-social behaviour – save for token notices advising users of the road that Lansdowne Road is in a “no drinking zone”. (In practice this is not enforced and the notices are ignored, not least by those people who lean against them while draining their cans and bottles.) Whilst at a meeting with residents and the manager of Palmer House, the council’s CCTV team raised residents’ hopes of installing a temporary CCTV camera in the area, their CCTV manager now advises residents that their equipment is incompatible with the street lamps in Lansdowne Road – which are standard for all urban residential parts of the borough. So saying, requests for further details of their equipment have been ignored.
The residents are extremely frustrated with SLYMCA’s present intransigence and, as one of your constituents, I hope that you will be able to put pressure on the senior management of the South London YMCA to accept their social responsibilities not only to their own residents but also to other residents in the area. Residents also hope that you will be able to use your influence to ensure that Croydon Council also devotes proper resources to discouraging anti-social behaviour.