Medway Labour & Co-operative Councillors for Luton & Wayfield continue to have serious concerns about Russell House

Two years ago, local housing provider MHS closed the flats at Russell House, in Luton, and announced plans to redevelop the building as a Foyer project to help young people coming out of care into the community.

At the time of the closure both local residents and local Labour & Co-op Councillors raised concerns not about the principle of a Foyer but specifically the placement of one in this area with its high crime and anti-social behaviour statistics.

These statistics have been highlighted most recently by the Panorama programme on the BBC last week.  This showed that the extremely high levels of ASB and violent crime in this area are drug related and this includes the recruitment of vulnerable young people into the County Lines which were so graphically highlighted by the programme.

Local Labour & Co-op Councillors fully support the concept of young people’s foyer programmes like this but the idea of putting vulnerable young people into an area with the current level of incidents is totally unacceptable.

MHS have even said they will have to employ security guards and install extra security cameras and lighting around the building once the project is up and running. Despite being told by both Medway Council and the Police that this would not be a good project as it will put these vulnerable young people at risk MHS are determined to proceed.

The redevelopment of Russell House is coming before the Council’s Planning Committee on Wednesday. This includes objections from Kent Police and the Kent Fire and Rescue Service.

MHS own most of the estate around Russell House and have consistently made promises to invest more in the area to help reduce the problems of ASB and crime which we know are related to poor housing. However, local residents feel none of these promises have come to anything and are losing faith with them as a respected local social landlord.

Local Labour & Co-operative Councillors in Luton & Wayfield call upon MHS to change their minds about this fundamentally flawed scheme, but if they are still determined then they must invest heavily into this community to bring about real improvements to the lives of their residents and ensure the safety of the young people in their care.

Jo Howcroft-Scott, Luton & Wayfield Councillor and Children and Young People O&S member said:

Please do not put our most vulnerable children in this area where sadly the statistics show that crime and drugs are rife.  This will make our young people vulnerable to child sexual exploitation, child criminal exploitation and runners for the county lines. Existing local residents have real concerns for any potential young person placed in this location with the statistics showing they are in an area of crime which regrettably has been highlighted on the recent BBC Panorama documentary. MHS should come back to the table with alternative plans for this site urgently rather than pressing ahead.”

Tris Osborne, Luton & Wayfield Councillor and Medway Labour & Co-operative Spokesperson for Community Safety said:

“The recent episode of Panorama highlighted what we have known here for some time, that the level of incidents in the very local area near the proposed youth foyer makes this idea ludicrous for this location.  MHS should think again about putting a youth foyer on this particular site.”

Simon Curry, Luton & Wayfield Councillor and Medway Labour & Co-operative Spokesperson for Regeneration, Community, Environment & Culture added:

“The Council has received 60 letters of objection from local residents and we know that the Police and Kent Fire and rescue are not happy about this development. This area is well known for many problems relating to drugs and antisocial behaviour and putting vulnerable young people here makes no sense.

“We as local councillors continue to work hard in this community providing support for the local police and making improvements to the public realm, as well as supporting the team at Arches Local with projects such as tree planting schemes. In contrast we have seen little or no investment from MHS for years. Even the simplest of things such as a play area for local children would be good to see.”

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