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Homeless families in Medway could be offered flats at Anchorage House in Chatham following backlash

A converted office building which was to be used exclusively to accommodate homeless families from London could also house local residents, it has been revealed.

Initially Anchorage House, an empty tower block in Chatham, was to provide 81 flats for needy people from the east London borough of Newham.

Anchorage House in Chatham has been converted into flats
Anchorage House in Chatham has been converted into flats

The deal clinched by a private housing association angered some politicians and people living in Medway who thought those in the Towns should be given priority for the new temporary accommodation.

It was also felt an influx of people from outside the area could impact local services which are already under financial pressure.

Newham Council, which is due to start moving tenants in over the next few weeks, said it has come to an agreement to offer a number of units in the 11-storey property to Medway Council.

The London borough authority has also pledged to help with social care support for those people moving in and confirmed it has an “ongoing duty” to provide alternative accommodation for tenants when the temporary arrangement at Anchorage House expires.

However, Medway Council has said it is still in talks with Newham about local people being housed.

Medway council cabinet member Cllr Naushabah Khan
Medway council cabinet member Cllr Naushabah Khan

Cllr Naushabah Khan, Medway Council’s portfolio holder for housing and property, said: “We are conscious that there will be an impact on local services, as the families and children placed by Newham Council will need to access essential services.

“As this accommodation has been brought forward through permitted development rights there are no s106 contributions paid to the council.

“These contributions are usually paid by developers and are used to help mitigate the impact of the development on the local area and community.

“However, we will continue to work with Newham Council to address any issues that may arise to ensure the impact on Medway and our residents is mitigated and limited.

“We are also continuing to hold discussions with Newham Council around the possibility of some of the units in Anchorage House being offered to Medway residents.”

Inside Anchorage House, Chatham - awaiting tenants
Inside Anchorage House, Chatham - awaiting tenants

London-based private property provider Theori Housing Management Services, which has 23 years experience of working with landlords and local authorities, has overseen the £9 million refurbishment of the former office block.

It has used permitted development rights (PDR) which allows it to bypass the usual planning process.

Planning applications are normally submitted by a developer and approved by the local authority for change of use from office to residential with an agreement for funds towards health, education and recreational facilities.

Director Tony Theori said his company approached Newham, which has placed residents outside the borough for years because of a shortage of accommodation.

He added: “There have been misconceptions about PDRs in the past.

The bathroom in one of the new flats at Anchorage House
The bathroom in one of the new flats at Anchorage House

“But there are now more stringent health and safety and building regulations. It’s pretty much the same standards as a new-build.”

When Medway Council was asked it had had any contact with Theori about taking over Anchorage House, it responded: “We were not given an opportunity to strike a deal directly with Theori over this building.”

The High Street building, once home to Medway County and Family Court, has been fully fitted out with studios for couples and two-bedroom family flats.

Some of the self-contained apartments have ensuite bathrooms and panoramic views over the River Medway.

On a tour of the property, MP Kelly Tolhurst, said while she welcomed housing for homeless people, she was “frustrated” it was benefiting those from outside the area.

MP Kelly Tolhurst previously raised concerns
MP Kelly Tolhurst previously raised concerns

Miss Tolhurst said previously: “We have a homeless problem here. I have seen for myself the type of accommodation we are putting some people in and it is substandard compared to this.”

Last month Cllr Khan said they had not been informed of the decision to house people from London.

Speaking at the time the announcement was confirmed by Theori, she said: “This will undoubtedly place significant pressure on local services including schools, infrastructure and council services

“The accommodation has been brought forward through permitted development rights and Medway Council has not been contacted or consulted as part of this process.”

Last December, it emerged that the Home Office was considering the property as a dispersal unit for asylum seekers.

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