Above: Brian Hosier
Published: 20 April, 2012
by PETER GRUNER
SCOUT leaders have been left fuming after a 10-year battle to build a £2.5million headquarters – and provide funds to pay for a full-time manager – were scuppered by planners.
The blow means the Islington, City and Camden District Scouts – who like many youth organisations are struggling for funds – will have to continue to rely on stretched volunteers.
District Scout leader Brian Hosier said they may appeal against the decision.
The Scouts were approached by a housing association 10 years ago to build a seven-storey block on the site of their current Scout hut in Holloway Road.
The new building would replace the current HQ, which opened in the 1960s and was recently taken over briefly by squatters. The scheme would be paid for by the building of 34 residential flats above the Scout centre, 80 per cent social rented and 20 per cent shared ownership. Crucially, it would also pay for a full-time leader, which the Scouts say is the only reason they went along with the plans. Otherwise they cannot afford a salary.
But this was dramatically refused by a Town Hall planning committee on Tuesday night on the grounds that there was not enough affordable housing in the scheme – they were just one affordable home short.
The Lib Dem opposition said that the refusal left the council with nothing – no improved youth provision and no affordable homes.
Planning officers recommended the scheme be approved because of the benefits to the community of having a thriving Scout centre and also that the facility would be available to the council at certain times of the week.
The scheme was also supported by the Lib Dem opposition group on the committee but eventually turned down by a majority vote from Labour councillors.
Moving that the scheme be rejected, Labour councillor Martin Klute argued that paying a salary and providing a flat for a centre manager would mean less affordable housing for families in need. “Of course, I support the Scouts and want them to have a new building but our first thought must be to people who are struggling on the waiting list and desperate for a new home,” he said.
But Lib Dem councillor George Allan argued: “We may lose one affordable home but look at the gain of having a thriving Scout centre providing activities for young people who might otherwise be on the streets.”
Cllr Allan pointed out that the Scouts had indicated that if they were refused permission for the development they might simply refurbish the existing building.
“So by taking this dogmatic line the council, which would have benefited from using the socially rented homes from the site to take people off the waiting list, loses everything.”
Mr Hosier said after the meeting that he was extremely disappointed with the decision.
“I didn’t think the council would take this view because, after all, we are providing a youth service for the borough. We will be discussing the issue and could launch a planning appeal,” he said.