Promise of support for St Michael’s Gate
Struggling children, ‘inhumane’ housing conditions and a school desperate for help - these were the messages senior officers from Peterborough City Council were confronted with on Monday night at a special meeting about St Michael’s Gate.
Homeless families on the estate spent two-and-a-half hours at the Parnwell Community Centre demanding immediate help from the council, which quickly responded by agreeing to offer comprehensive support to the residents.
The estate in Parnwell has been making local and national headlines for the past two years since the Peterborough Telegraph revealed widespread evictions were being carried out by a private firm to remove 72 of the 74 sitting tenants. Managing agents for the homes Stef & Philips then agreed a three year deal with the council worth nearly £1 million a year for the authority to use the properties for its homeless households.
The council insisted that if it did not use the homes, another local authority would move their homeless residents in their instead, with the council having to pick up the bill.
The PT was present on Monday to hear some of the many problems families living at St Michael’s Gate have been facing, including complaints about the houses being cold and damp, resulting in children becoming ill and missing school.
The cries for help moved council service director for community and safety Adrian Chapman to offer an independent environmental evaluation of half a dozen properties on the estate.
That offer of assistance was soon upgraded, though, as Mr Chapman promised to speak to housing needs manager Sean Evans and agree a package of support specifically for St Michael’s Gate residents, as many had complained that they were not being contacted by their housing caseworkers.
“You are a unique group of people. We need to think of you slightly differently to others. We need to spend a bit more time with you,” he said.
“We need to understand your frustrations and ensure a better service. It’s a promise I’m making to you.”
But council deputy leader Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald then went one step further by guaranteeing that all properties should be inspected, rather than six.
He said : “It’s a dreadful situation. I’m going to make sure that these people come back, and I want to know all 78 houses are fit for habitation.
“Everybody should have a decent house to live in.”
Members of the public attending the meeting at the Parnwell Community Centre