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Two centres for young in same Barking street 'too many'

PUBLISHED: 12:54 15 September 2011 | UPDATED: 12:27 16 September 2011

Residents of Strathfield Gardens

Residents of Strathfield Gardens

Archant

»Barking MP Margaret Hodge has questioned why two homes for young people were allowed to open in the same street.

Mrs Hodge spoke at a community meeting which she held last Friday to tackle problems with the unruly behaviour of youths in Strathfield Gardens, Barking.

As reported in last week’s Post, residents have complained about a number of young people who live at the two privately-run homes – Holibrook House, which caters for teenagers with behavioural problems aged 14 to 18, and No. 20, an assisted living centre for 16 to 18-year-olds.

It is said youths have shouted abuse at passers-by, thrown stones at buses, climbed on to the roofs of the homes and on one occasion barricaded the street with furniture.

Problems

But the care home managers say behaviour has improved significantly at both homes and that residents need to understand the young people come from “challenging” backgrounds.

Mrs Hodge told those gathered at St Erkenwald Church in Levett Road – which included about 30 residents, councillors, police and the home managers – that permission for both homes should never have been allowed.

“To have one on the street is manageable but there are bound to be problems if you have more,” she said. “I am going to look into this further and see whether something can be done about it.”

According to one resident, planning permission was given to turn No. 1 Strathfield Gardens into a youth home around seven years ago, while No. 20 had received permission in the 1960s to become a care home for the elderly.

Because the latter was already a care home, the new owners, Lodge Care Group, did not have to apply for change of use before it opened in 2009.

Speaking at the meeting, the resident said: “A home for young people who come from challenging backgrounds is completely different from a care home for the elderly. Residents should have been consulted first, but this was not the case.”

A number of residents spoke about incidents where they were allegedly taunted, intimidated and subjected to noise nuisance late at night.

Some felt more restrictions should be put on the youngsters, but managers at the homes said they could not force anyone to stay inside as they were not running secure units.

Yvonne Miller, manager of Holibrook House, said that the youngsters at her home rarely caused any problems. “We have had issues in the past, but this year they’ve been very good.”

Mrs Hodge, who said there needs to be more communication between all parties, said another community meeting on the issue would be held on October 21.

n In last week’s Post, we incorrectly stated that one of the homes was run by Hopewell School. In fact, the school has no connection to the home, nor the anti-social behaviour reported there.

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