Plans to turn Oakleigh care home in Sutton into homeless accomodation met with anger
Two emergency meetings last week gave residents their say on proposals to turn a former care home into a homeless shelter.
Sutton Council had attempted to "sneak" through plans to turn Oakleigh Care Home into accommodation for homeless families at a meeting last month.
However, when residents of the Benhill Estate got wind of the plans the day before the Strategy and Resources Committee meeting on October 15, they rallied round and made it clear they were not happy about the lack of consultation.
The leader of Sutton Council, Councillor Ruth Dombey, wrote to residents of the central Sutton estate hours before proposals were to be discussed and apologised for not speaking to them first.
The plans were pulled off the agenda for the meeting, and last week was residents' first opportunity to make their opinions heard.
Paul Nathan, former secretary of the Benhill Residents Association, said the council have been caught out by the strength of feeling.
He said: "The council tried to sneak this through without asking us about it, and after these meetings it's quite clear it's only the council who support these plans, nobody else."
Mr Nathan said the start of the first meeting at Manor Park School had to be delayed as there were so many people trying to get into the building.
The teaching assistant said: "There were 35 elderly residents who lived in Oakleigh when it was a care home, and now the council wants to put 139 people in there with various problems.
We have worked hard over the recent years to improve the reputation of the is area, this will cause massive disruption. We don't blame the people the council are putting in there, we just don't think the area can cope with the influx of people with various needs."
Councillor Jayne McCoy, Chairwoman of the housing, economy and business committee said: "Council officers met with residents over the last two weeks to explain the proposals directly to them and hear and understand their concerns. At this stage nothing has been agreed, nor set in stone. We want to involve all members of the community as we shape the proposals, reflecting their views in the final report that goes to committee in December.
"It’s important to remember that at the heart of the proposal is the wellbeing of a number of vulnerable families – including those with young children. In their time of extreme need we want to provide temporary accommodation and a level of stability with school placements, health and social support links that they would otherwise not have. Other boroughs are being criticised for placing families out of their area, whilst here we are working very hard to stop the need to do that.”