Neighbourhood Council comments

Yorkshire Coast Homes directors are blatantly ignoring their duty of care to those people on the waiting list for housing in Whitby if Bill Miller’s comments in his exclusive interview last week are to be believed.

How can YCH directors justify waiting years for legal issues to be resolved on the chance that they may be able to use the land for housing?

As a charitable registered social landlord (RSL), YCH has a duty of care to meet the housing need which they and SBC proclaim from the housetops is a matter of urgency, waiting as long as it takes is treating the needs of those on their waiting list with the utmost disdain.

The legal battle to save Helredale Playing field from development is well into its sixth year, what reason can YCH give to those on their list for failing them when alternative sites in the town are available?

The most obvious site is that owned by SBC and advertised for sale earlier this year in the Gazette as “development land for housing”.

The brownfield site off Stakesby Road, adjacent to other new builds, is ideal for the needs of YCH, there will be no delay in its purchase and the site will not need to have a substantial amount of land drainage work undertaken even before any building can commence, nor will completely new sewers need to be installed and even better, the access will not be onto one of the busiest major routes into and out of Whitby.

Now that YCH has committed to meeting the cost of building from its own funds those on the waiting list could be rehoused within a year if this option was to be taken up.

Any remaining housing need can be met by demolishing the St Peters Road flats, now mainly untenanted I understand, one block at a time, and rebuilding that block to house any remaining tenants, on a rolling basis.

Indeed, if this part of the plan had been made separately then YCH could have already built the new flats and houses on that site, utilising the open space in the area as it appears that they already have sufficient funds.

Perhaps Mr Miller has a crystal ball installed in his office or maybe he has other means of knowing as a certainty that affordable housing will be built at Helredale?

I would remind him that YCH were made fully aware of residents’ views against this development at the very first public meeting, and survey results reinforced them, together with objections from Whitby Town Council.

Yet YCH directors have wasted £300,000 from their charitable funds in their endeavour to get their own way, (this is the amount stated in a letter to the High Court from SBC’s legal department in July 2012 when an emergency hearing was requested on the grounds that funding worth £2m would be lost if work did not commence by September, and as a result the project would be unlikely to go ahead).

May I suggest that they read and implement their own Corporate Plan, in particular the paragraphs relating to supporting residents to create a greater impact on lives and communities.

Almost all YCH tenants in the area objected to the plans, but where is this so-called “support” they can expect? Certainly there will be a greater impact on the lives and communities if the housing was to go ahead, but in no way could it be considered beneficial to existing tenants.

We are so sorry that Mr Miller finds it frustrating for the vast numbers on the waiting lists, but would respectfully point out that it is a situation of YCH’s and SBC’s own making, and if YCH’s directors are in agreement with their fellow director then they, and they alone, are guilty of not addressing their duty of care in respect of the need for social housing in Whitby in a timely fashion.

Readers will remember that when the result of the public inquiry into registering the land as a village green was announced, the Inspector clearly stated that all the criteria required by the Commons Act to qualify for such registration had been met.

In fact, if any other Inspector had presided over the Inquiry, the likelihood is that the land would have been registered at that time.

Unfortunately for us Mr Vivian Chapman, QC, introduced the question of a certain Housing Act dating back more than six decades, and made his decision against registration based on certain aspects of this Act which have never before been questioned or clarified in a court of law in such circumstances.

For this reason we have been advised by our legal team to proceed with our legal actions to have the decision reversed. The ultimate decision in the case is now one upon which a number of other village green decisions are pending, and it has therefore become something of a “test case”.

Nowhere in the Commons Act does it specifically state that land owned by a local authority cannot be registered, and this is the matter which must be clarified.

After all, why should local authority owned land be treated any differently to that in private ownership?

Our New Year message to the directors of Yorkshire Coast Homes is “take your heads out of the sand and face reality, before those on your waiting list decide that drastic action needs to be taken to make you meet with your duty of care to them”.

You are quite correct in your assertion that “It is a basic right that other people have got (a home) and we are looking to provide them with a number of affordable homes within their local community”.

Don’t offload your guilt onto the Helredale community, there are very few residents within it who are on your waiting list, just get on with your duties as an RSL, you don’t have to wait for years for a certain piece of land to possible become available to fulfil them.

Viv Wright, secretary, Helredale Neighbourhood Council by email