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‘Rabbit-hutch housing developments’ condemned by MP

Harlow’s MP has condemned the use of converted ‘rabbit-hutch housing developments’ in his borough, which he said have had a ‘catastrophic impact’ on local life.

Speaking during a debate in Parliament last week, MP Robert Halfon described converted office blocks in Harlow as ‘ghetto building, human warehousing and social cleansing’.

A number of former office blocks have been converted into residential properties in Harlow under permitted development rights, which were first introduced in 2013.

These rights allow office blocks to be converted into flats without the need for planning permission.

‘Harlow has become a prime location for such developments, with 12 former office block conversions, including Terminus House, Templefields and Redstone House,’ said Mr Halfon.

‘Harlow’s proximity to London and comparatively lower property prices make it a preferred location for developers; but, of course, the legislation does not require the builds to comply with local planning regulations.

‘As such, around 1,100 units have been created in Harlow—a town of around 40,000 homes—none of which has been tested against the requirements of the local plan.’

He added that the creation of ‘relatively inexpensive accommodation’ in Harlow has made such properties an attractive option for councils outside Harlow looking to house individuals who have presented as homeless in their area.

‘That has allowed predominantly London councils to socially cleanse their boroughs and to place vulnerable individuals, often with additional needs, into those converted properties as temporary accommodation.’

‘The rabbit-hutch housing developments have been a hive of criminal activity and drug abuse, placing huge pressures on our local police, A&E and social services,’ he added.

The parliamentary debate came as the leader of Harlow Council has called on other local authorities across the South East to stop sending families to live in converted office blocks in his borough.

In a letter to more than 70 council leaders, Cllr Mark Inghall has asked them to review their housing policies and to end ‘out of borough’ placements if they place or plan to place families and children in converted accomodation in Harlow.

‘I know that there is a national housing crisis, which brings many challenges to councils in placing people in affordable accommodation,’ said Cllr Ingham.

‘However last week’s BBC Panorama programme on life inside converted office blocks has once again highlighted the unsuitability of placing people in permitted developments without proper assessment and support.’

Photo Credit – Free-Photos (Pixabay)

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