Mon, 12 Nov 2018
WEST Berkshire Council has performed a temporary U-turn on its decision to remove two portable toilets that were recently installed at Newbury’s largest homeless encampment.
West Berkshire Homeless (WBH) installed the two toilet units at the Faraday Road site, behind Newbury FC’s former football ground, last month.
But days after the toilets were installed, the charity received notification from the district council to remove them within seven days or else the local authority would do so.
The council also warned that, under trespassing law, WBH would be liable for all costs incurred by the removal.
In a statement, the charity’s board of trustees said they took matters into their own hands following comments from members of the public about the area, along with the charity’s own observations and those of other homeless organisations.
This was coupled with the fact that existing public facilities within the town are closed early in the evening.
Part of the statement read: “Enquiries were made regarding the use of the adjacent disused football club facilities, but this was refused.
“There followed protracted discussions with the council, including our proposal, which we submitted to them, for a temporary solution and hopefully their agreement, but this was not forthcoming, as they stated they did not want to encourage the enlargement of the camp.”
The charity said the installation of the two self-contained toilets – which took place on Tuesday, October 23, after investigations for the number of units required – was at no cost to the council or the local community.
WBH also carried out a full risk assessment, including the possibility of flooding, and also arranged liability insurance prior to installing the toilets.
A contract with a hire company was agreed on a monthly basis, whereby delivery, installation and weekly servicing – including the emptying of waste – would take place.
Following further discussions with the relevant council department, it was agreed that the facilities could stay until further internal council meetings had taken place and a decision reached, regarding not just about the toilet installation, but about how to resolve the homeless issue at the camp and other locations.
The statement added: “Until we receive further correspondence from the council on their decision, we will not be removing the toilets and continue to cooperate with all organisations in respect of finding these unfortunate people accommodation.”
West Berkshire Council spokes-woman Peta Stoddard-Crompton, highlighted that WBH was part of the council’s Homeless Strategy Group, which works with several agencies and local charities to prevent homelessness.
Along with Loose Ends, Newbury Soup Kitchen and Eight Bells for Mental Health, West Berkshire Homeless was involved in the decision- making process for the council’s winter strategy plan.
This includes the extension of a winter cover at Two Saints rather than just the severe winter emergency protocol (SWEP) which only offers beds when the weather is extreme, both in terms of cold and heat.
Ms Stoddard-Crompton said that the council had agreed that the toilets could remain in place until all rough sleepers at the encampment have been given proper shelter in accordance with the agreed winter strategy.