Ownership of the property in Queen's Road transferred to Richmond Housing Partnership in 2000 as part of our transfer of housing stock. We repurchased the property on 20 June 2017.
The proposal to open a local children’s home for Richmond upon Thames was discussed at the Scrutiny Review Panel on 12 September 2016, the minutes of which were published within the public reports pack for the Residential Children’s Home item considered at Cabinet on 17 November 2016. The three options considered were:
Buying a house was deemed to be poor value for money compared to building a new property on council-owned land. Not only would stamp duty tax be significant, but the properties exactly matching the requirements of the home are rare and might need additional adaptations after purchase.
The Council originally decided that building the home on the Mereway site was the preferred option. However, following a review it became apparent that the timescales for delivering this option were too long and other options were explored.
A further search identified 105 Queen’s Road as, although not owned by the Council, it did have an option to acquire it and a children’s home could be delivered on this site within the required timescale.
The property at 105 Queens Road can be delivered more quickly than the Mereway site. There are a number of reasons for this, including Mereway presenting greater planning challenges and a more complicated procurement and construction because the site would need to support two simultaneous developments – new housing and the children’s home.
The costs of construction on either Mereway or 105 Queens Road are similar as are the sites’ values.
We are trying to create a loving home environment for some of the borough’s most vulnerable children. So, like any other family home, we need enough bedrooms, a large living room and kitchen, bathrooms and outdoor space. The property needs to have good transport links so children can get to school. And, as with any other property purchase – the site needs to be affordable.
There are two key issues in the assessment of location suitability, namely access to local services and safeguarding concerns:
The Department for Education specify that location assessments for children’s homes should “take into account any positive features in a local community that would offer benefits to children living in a children’s home. For example, assessments could include evidence about opportunities for children to participate in leisure, sporting or cultural activities, or links with services that could support the child’s ethnic or religious identity”. (Children’s homes regulations amendments 2014, DfE, 2014).
Examples of these in the vicinity of 105 Queens Road include:
Location assessments must also consider risks to the children of locating a children’s home in a certain area. The area around 105 Queen’s Road has been assessed as being acceptable also from this perspective, including with regard to the private lane accessible from St Mary’s Avenue and the nature of Queen’s Road itself.
The time needed to open the home is also a factor when considering the site. The Council wishes to open the children’s home as quickly as possible, so that the quality of experience and care being provided for this cohort of children can be improved as quickly as possible.
Ultimately, even if the lead Cabinet Members approve the proposal, both the planning process and the Ofsted children’s home registration process will judge whether this site is suitable for a home of this size and nature.
The lane accessed from St Mary’s Avenue does not have a direct boundary with the garden of 105 Queens Road, but does with more than 15 other properties. We do not believe that the lane is a prohibitive issue. The garden of 105 Queen’s Road would be well-maintained, fenced and secured in the same way as most other gardens in the area.
The site’s private sale value is estimated to be £750,000 and estimated development costs are £980,000. If it were sold for affordable housing, the value would be significantly less.
Updated: 8 September 2017