North Herts Council publish Q&A on Lord Lister

By Layth Yousif

26th Mar 2022 | Local News

North Herts Council publish Q&A on Lord Lister
North Herts Council publish Q&A on Lord Lister

North Herts Council have published a Q&A relating to the Lord Lister.

Hitchin Nub News sent a list of detailed questions to NHC on Thursday morning, however, the council have chosen to publish a public Q&A that, significantly, did not include a number of our more pressing questions that we submitted 24 hours ago.

See Hitchin Nub News on Monday for more.

In the meantime here is their Q&A in full.

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North Herts Council Q&A

Due to recent interest, North Herts Council have taken the opportunity to respond to questions concerning the Lord Lister Hotel in Hitchin and clarify the situation.

1) Why was this deal pushed through by a single person behind closed doors with no committee involvement?

It wasn't. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), now Department for Levelling Up, Communities & Housing, provided the Council with grant funding and this decision concerned allocating £200k of government funding in accordance with the 'Special Urgency' provisions contained within the Council's Constitution. The decision taken under the Special Urgency provisions at paragraph 15.15 of the Council's Constitution was to grant funding towards an accommodation and support scheme for homeless single people in North Hertfordshire.

The decision to award the funding was considered urgent as without such a decision being taken at that time, the opportunity to help the vulnerable in our society would have been lost.

Once reached, the decision was published on our website and all Councillors were notified of the decision via the Members Information Service bulletin.

Any separate planning application concerning the property is yet to be determined by the Planning Control Committee.

2) Can North Herts Council explain exactly why they believed the Lord Lister Hotel property deal would be a good arrangement that benefitted Hitchin town centre and the people and businesses that live and work there?

We'd like to be clear here and confirm that we had no control over the location Keystage Housing chose and certainly didn't do a property deal with the former owner of the Lord Lister Hotel. Keystage Housing identified the Lord Lister Hotel themselves, and then approached the council for support funding their acquisition of the building and the service they intended to provide.

We were made aware of the reasons for their choice of the Lord Lister Hotel which included the fact it was a town centre location near to amenities residents would need to use, and that the hotel was fit for purpose with its own car park and could be 'made ready' in a relatively short space of time to help vulnerable adults in need.

The £200K grant was given to Keystage Housing to help them secure a 10-year lease, to provide services at the Lord Lister Hotel (£20K per year) for adults in need in the local area, the need for which has grown significantly throughout the pandemic.

Keystage Housing is seeking permission to run their service from the Lord Lister hotel at a future Planning Control Committee. The Committee will take all comments into consideration and make a decision based on planning guidelines.

The impact of this decision on local residents was considered. Officers and councillors were assured by Keystage Housing's outline of service provision, and a positive reference received from Luton Borough Council where it provided similar services, that service provision at the Lord Lister Hotel would take into account the needs of our community in the area whilst ensuring minimal disruption to local residents.

3) Is it true that the deal was pushed through because government money for the enterprise was about to be withdrawn?

No. There was a deadline set by the owner of the Lord Lister Hotel who we understand had to meet their own deadlines so as not to incur costs.

The pandemic has highlighted the previously hidden number of people in our district with complex support needs who have been living unstable, often chaotic lives, and enduring spells of 'sofa surfing' or periods of sleeping rough.

During the pandemic, the Council accommodated over 180 people at risk of rough sleeping, mainly in hotels. Having accommodated these individuals in line with central government directives at the height of the pandemic, we want to continue working with them in more suitable facilities to improve their longer-term outcomes (and indeed central government funding is still very much available to help us do this). This will of course also have wider benefits for our society: reducing anti-social behaviour, rough sleeping and town centre begging as well as the dependency on public resources such as housing, social care, justice services and benefit dependency.

4) The council will not let anyone so much as cut down a tree without permission and yet the council can hand over hundreds of thousands of pounds to a property developer behind closed doors, in order to move unsupported former prisoners and other people with severe drug and alcohol problems into a property with no planning application and change of use, turning it from a hotel into a halfway house, and give no warning to other councillors and to the general public. Is this not a prime example of 'one rule for them, and everyone else another?'

The grant money was given to Keystage Housing who are a supported housing provider not a property developer. They provide supported accommodation for those in danger of homelessness and/or with complex needs until they are able to secure permanent accommodation.

All local authorities have rules and regulations to adhere to for the benefit of all residents. As the local planning authority, we are legally obliged to provide a planning service so issues like this can be consulted on and determined by elected representatives.

Councillors were informed of the decision in the Members Information Service bulletin dated 13 August 2021. In addition, the then Deputy Leader, who was also ward councillor for the area was aware of and consulted on the decision, as was the chair of Overview and Scrutiny.

It is not unusual for Councils to receive retrospective planning applications and the Committee decision is made irrespective of whether the operation is current or proposed.

5) Can you confirm the number of objections against Lord Lister?

As of the 25 March 2022: 123 against, 2 for.

6) Is it correct that the planning committee meeting has been moved to 20 April?

The planning committee meeting date will be confirmed on the day the reports are published. This is because we work on applications right up to the deadline for the committee and only submit them if they are finalised and ready to be reported.

7) If people want to go/speak at the planning committee meeting how do they do this?

Anyone wishing to speak at the planning committee can do. They just need to contact our Committee Services team (via our switchboard 01462 474000) to register once the agenda for the meeting is released, which is normally published a week in advance of the meeting.

People have until 12 noon on the day of the committee to register and the spokesperson for the objectors is given 5 minutes to speak as is the applicant. This is standard practice however, the Chair can decide to extend the 5 minutes for both representatives.

8) Why has the consultation ended when the meeting isn't until 20 April now?

The online portal has been extended until the 6 April. Now, and after that date, people can continue to send their views via email and post using the details below

by email: [email protected]

by post: PO Box 10613, NG6 6DW.

9) Why are there two planning applications?

The Lord Lister Hotel is a Listed Building (a protected historic building) so it needs two different consents to change and be altered.

The first is the change of use application and the second is the Listed Building Consent. They are submitted and considered in parallel. Both applications are on our website.

10) Is it correct that residents are being taken out of The Lord Lister Hotel?

There are 12 individuals currently in residence, as 4 individuals have already been resettled into more permanent accommodation.

11) What checks did we do about the service/support of clients?

  1. 1 North Herts Council due diligence (of Keystage Housing):

Keystage Housing have been continuously commissioned to provide services under the governments Rough Sleeper Initiative since 2019 in both Luton and Northampton and data/evidence is monitored by local authorities and the Department for Levelling Up Housing and Committees.

We received a glowing reference from the Luton Rough Sleeper Co-ordinator Lead in Luton, who viewed Keystage Housing as one their best providers in Luton for supporting those with complex needs and said "Keystage Housing have a particularly good record in dealing with people who had complex support needs". We also received positive reviews of similar complex needs support services they have in Northampton.

North Herts Council staff also visited Keystage Housing's Luton establishment alongside Cllr Sean Prendergast and were happy to see the professionalism and commitment within their scheme in Luton. The Council have found all dealings with Keystage Housing to be dynamic and forward thinking, with a real focus on positive outcomes for residents.

  1. 2 Applicant assessment process:

Once Keystage Housing receive a referral, which comes from or through the council, they visit the person with support needs to carry out an initial assessment which is followed by background checks to assess if the placement would be appropriate.

If Keystage Housing is satisfied with the information gathered the individual is invited to visit the facility for the day and see how they feel about the place and how they interact with staff and residents in the facility.

When everyone is in agreement that the offer provided is suitable, a transition plan is confirmed, and a placement start date is confirmed. Placements are reviewed with North Herts Council routinely.

Most people placed will have a local connection to North Hertfordshire, whether living or working in the district or having family in North Herts.

12) How many trained/qualified professionals are employed in the Lord Lister hotel to help its residents to cope with their complex needs

Keystage Housing will always have a minimum of two staff on duty at any time. Their service is supported by a team of Resettlement Coordinators, a Service Manager/Locality Manager and Operations and Quality Management Team. Keystage Housing provide a framework for training Resettlement Co-ordinators and Service Managers from day one, alongside regular refresher training for all staff.

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WHAT DO YOU THINK? MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD AND EMAIL US at [email protected]

See Hitchin Nub News on Monday for more

     

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