Controversial plans to extend Old Windsor probation hostel rejected

OLD WINDSOR 133663-6

The Manor Lodge Hostel, Old Windsor

Controversial plans to extend an Old Windsor probation hostel managed by the Ministry of Justice were rejected by councillors last night (Wednesday).

Proposals for the Manor Lodge Probation Hostel in Straight Road have been met with a flurry of objections since an application was submitted, with people nearby raising concerns over anti-social behaviour and fear of crime.

The MoJ, which owns and occupies the site, wanted to extend Manor Lodge, which provides accommodation to convicted criminals on licence from prison.

Plans involved building three additional bedrooms, a new cycle store, an air source heat pump, and solar panels on the roof, and would have seen two nearby flat-roofed garages demolished.

The hostel, which was granted planning permission in 1967, has 25 existing rooms with 10 members of staff.

At an in-person meeting of the Royal Borough's planning panel at Maidenhead Town Hall last night, councillors decided to side with residents over planning officers, who had recommended the plans be approved.

A motion was put forward by Cllr Neil Knowles (OWRA, Old Windsor) and Cllr Geoff Hill (TBF, Oldfield) to reject the plans. 

But the vote was a close one, with five councillors voting to go against officer recommendations and reject the plans, with four councillors in favour of approving the hostel extension.

In the planning report, officers stated that the concerns of local residents were 'noted', but it was considered that the expansion to enable three more residents at Manor Lodge 'would not represent a significant increase in occupants over and above the existing capacity'. 

They added: "The residents are managed and supervised in line with the National Probation Service guidelines [and] regulations.

"Enabling offenders to be housed in such facilities properly manages their transition back into the community."

The meeting heard from a range of public speakers, some of whom lived nearby to the site and repeated concerns over anti-social behaviour.

One resident, Peter Marshall, read out a letter from a fellow resident which said that 'I am my children are quite intimidated by the men who live' in Manor Lodge.

Old Windsor Parish Council chairwoman, Jane Dawson, told the meeting: "There has been no further planning permission since the mid-60s, no change of use applications, no consultations, and now to add insult to injury, the MoJ want to expand it [the hostel].

"Our community has been forced to live with a range of unacceptable behaviours: public urinating, illegal drinking, noise and nuisance from inside the premises has seriously impacted other residents of properties backing on to or next door to Manor Lodge.

"An increase in the number of residents only increases the risk of more issues."

When contacted by the Express, the Ministry of Justice did not confirm whether it would be appealing the decision.

It added that approved premises such as Manor Lodge 'play a vital role in offering stability, support and supervision that helps prevent reoffending', with homeless prison leavers 'around 50 per cent more likely to reoffend'.

Speaking at the meeting, Tom Jackson, manager of Manor Lodge, said: "We take our place within the local community very seriously and act quickly to address any community concerns.

"All residents are required to sign a behavioural contract and if we are aware that a resident is having a negative impact on the community, we will withdraw their placement (which often results in their return to prison). 

"The proposal represents sustainable development that your case officer agrees is compliant with national and local planning policies.

"It will not result in any adverse technical impacts [and] is a small-scale extension to a long-standing existing premises, and will meet a significant national demand for additional approved premises bed spaces.

"We provide robust management of our residents, which is evidenced by the low level of incidents, and have processes in place for local residents and councillors to have a direct line into the manager to raise any concerns in order for us to undertake swift action."

Later in the meeting, plans were approved to build four semi-detached homes in Alma Road, Windsor.

The applicant, Hallmanor Limited, also wanted to include parking, vehicular access and landscaping in the plans, with the homes to be built on land north of Camperdown House.

Buildings will comprise of two two-bedroom properties and two three-bedroom properties, with eight parking spots, and will be constructed on an existing 50-space car park off Alma Road. 

Councillors voted seven in favour and two against officer recommendations to approve the proposals at Wednesday's meeting.

The planning meeting also saw plans approved to refurbish Star House in Maidenhead, the former base of mobile giant Three UK.  

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