Six more 'pods' to provide lifeline for homeless

Councillor approve homeless pods in Cambridge

Councillors have approved a further six 'pods' to be built for homeless people living in Cambridge at a planning committee meeting. - Credit: LDR

Planning permission has been granted for a further six “pods” to provide transitional accommodation for homeless people in Cambridgeshire. 

The unanimous decision by Cambridge City Council’s planning committee on Wednesday, February 3 brings the total number of such homes approved in Cambridge to 22, with some already occupied across the city. 

The latest six to be granted planning permission will be located in Barnes Close, just off Barnwell Road in the Abbey ward. 

The homes are being donated by housebuilder Hill and bring the number it has donated to the city up to 16. 

The committee heard the homes are designed to offer transitional housing as part of a “housing first” strategy to the homeless who would otherwise be in a hostel. 

The homes will be managed by the city council and homelessness charity Jimmy’s, which have said they will provide assistance and monitoring through daily site visits, and that a dedicated support worker will be on call at all times.  

There will also be regular and random drug tests for occupants with a history of substance abuse. 

Inside homeless pod in Cambridge

Inside one of the 'pods' that will provide accommodation for homeless people living in Cambridge. - Credit: LDR

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The homes, described as “pods” in the council’s planning report, come fully furnished with an internal floorspace of 24 square metres, well below the city council’s usual minimum standard of 37 square metres. 

Alex Hemmings, who lives near the proposed development, urged the committee to reject the application. 

He said the homes would not be compliant with the council’s own policy on minimum internal space standards and disabled access. 

He said the homes “would not provide a good living environment for long-term occupants,” and asked: “Why should formerly homeless people not be entitled to the same standards of housing as the rest of the population?” 

He also said the homes would “harm the character of the area”.  

He said they are within 0.3 miles of an existing site for such homeless transitional housing, and said “the local residents are concerned about anti-social behaviour”. 

Inside homeless pod in Cambridge

Inside one of the 'pods' that will provide accommodation for homeless people living in Cambridge. - Credit: LDR

“Bright orange Portakabins are not in keeping with the neighbouring brick terraced houses,” he said. 

“We understand that there is a clear need for additional specialist housing for the homeless in Cambridge.  

“But this political imperative should not override the considerable impact on existing residents, nor the need to meet the demands of the 2018 local plan with the respect to the size and accessibility of homes.” 

Speaking for the council, Rory Lowings said that each home is “designed to meet the specific needs of homeless people”. 

He said the homes are “not intended as a permanent housing solution” and that “individuals allocated will move on to conventional accommodation after they have established a stable domestic situation and are in a position to do so”. 

He said the location was chosen because it is a “quiet residential area” within walking distance to shops and other services. 

“Homelessness in Cambridge remains a serious challenge,” he said.  

“The scheme will provide six people a safe way to get off the street and move on with their lives.  

“Modular housing projects already delivered elsewhere in the city have shown how beneficial this type of housing for people with a history of homelessness can be.” 

Councillor Jennifer Page-Croft said that her son used to be homeless.  

“He tells me that when you are coming off of the streets you don’t want a big place,” she said. 

“You want something that is small, convenient, that you can just go to bed at night, get up in the morning and get your breakfast, because you need to relearn how to integrate yourself into society.  

“Starting off with something small and womb-like is the best way forward”. 

Planning officer Alice Young said the homes create a “compact but pleasant space internally” and have been “specifically designed for the needs of the occupiers”. 

“There is an urgent need for this type of move-on accommodation,” she said. 

Councillor Martin Smart, chair of the committee, noted that the homes are below the council’s minimum space standards, but said “we have been advised by the experts that that is the best thing for the homeless people”.