Harlow MP accuses office block re-housing as ‘social cleansing’

Terminus House

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Police figures show crime recorded at Terminus House, and the car park which sits beneath the housing, rose 45% in the first 10 months of it opening

The government is reviewing its policy of allowing the conversion of offices into homes without planning permission.

Communities Secretary James Brokenshire said he would be looking “at where the burden lies” with regards to the pressures and costs involved when re-housing families from London.

It comes after Robert Halfon, MP for Harlow, described the practice as “social cleansing”.

A BBC report revealed homeless families were re-housed in Harlow office blocks.

Mr Halfon told Parliament: “This policy has not worked. It has allowed landlords to build ghettos and allowed London councillors to socially cleanse their most vulnerable families to places like Harlow.”

He added the town had not been given additional resources to “deal with this extra burden” to provide more doctors, schools, social services, and policing.

The MP urged Mr Brokenshire to change the conversion rules.

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Paul Jackson says the 100 CCTV cameras around Terminus House help keep people safe

The BBC found hundreds of families were being rehoused in Harlow by councils in and around London in office blocks and on industrial estates, often living next to drug addicts and ex-convicts.

Some of these residents told the BBC of feeling isolated and having to walk 40 minutes to the nearest shop or school.

Melanie Smith, who lives in former office block Terminus House in the town, said: “It is very scary.”

She and her two sons have a one-room flat where a sofa doubles as her bed, a few feet from the oven and sink and her sons’ two beds.

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Melanie Smith lives with two sons in a small studio apartment, where she sleeps on a sofa

Caridon Property, owner of Terminus House, said it delivered a good service and “it does all it can to keep people safe”.

Developers are able to turn offices into residential premises without planning permission under a change to permitted development rights in 2013.

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