UPDATED: Women’s shelter plan dropped by council

Danes Dyke. Scene where building work may begin .pic Richard Ponter 150310c
Danes Dyke. Scene where building work may begin .pic Richard Ponter 150310c

Plans for a women’s shelter in Scarborough have been scuppered after the borough council’s cabinet voted not to sell the land to a developer.

The Home Group was granted planning permission in March for 10 flats for vulnerable women and children on green space at Danes Dyke in Newby.

On Tuesday, however, the council’s cabinet was told the value of the land had increased significantly since the council agreed to sell it to the charity, for just £50,000, a third of its value in 2011.

The council’s financial officer Nick Edwards said the value of the land was now £215,000 and councillors had to decide if it was still happy taking a loss in order to provide a service that was needed in the borough.

Council leader Cllr Derek Bastiman was one of the most vocal opponents of the women’s refuge when it was going through the planning process, telling people living in Danes Dyke he would “fight it all the way”.

However, at Tuesday’s meeting he told councillors they were “voting on land not, what is proposed for it.”

Cllrs Mike Cockerill and Helen Mallory both said they thought the council had to get the best value for money it could and that the land should be put out for sale on the open market.

However, fellow cabinet members Bill Chatt and Andrew Backhouse both urged the cabinet to think “morally” and not financially.

Former leader and current mayor Cllr Tom Fox also spoke at the meeting.

During his speech, he made an impassioned plea for the Home Group to be allowed to build on the land.

He said: “I can understand the call to best value, one side of me says that is very, very important, but if you consider best value as monetary gain only then I think you are doing a disservice to a wider public.

“Domestic violence runs right through the community and much wider, the consequences of that to young people, to families disrupted, to children who don’t get a second chance is massive and I think part of your considerations for best value needs to go beyond the monetary.

“It is very critical that people have that support.”

Cllr Dilys Cluer also asked the cabinet to support the women’s refuge but the cabinet voted in favour of putting the land back up for sale on the open market.

The plans for the shelter drew a lot of local opposition when first proposed.

A number of people turned up to the Town Hall in March order to try to stop the proposals from going ahead.

However, by nine votes to three, the committee disagreed.

More than 100 people had objected to the scheme but the applicants, the Home Group, claimed that Scarborough was in desperate need of a safe place for women.

Christian Lang from Home Group spoke of the problems Scarborough as a borough has with domestic violence.

At March’s meeting, he told councillors: “Last year three women a week were the victims of serious domestic abuse.”

He added that changes had been made to the plans to make the building more harmonious with the existing properties.

Rachael Byrne, Home Group executive director of care and support, said: “We’re extremely disappointed that following planning permission and a great deal of work with the planning department the Cabinet have decided not to sell the land.

“The council leadership needs to ask itself some very serious questions on how they are going to protect women and children who live in fear of violence each day. With two women each week dying at the hands of violent partners this issue is not going to go away.

“Like many charities we’re often sold land below market rate in recognition that we don’t make a profit and that in return we provide a valuable service for the council.

“We work with more than 200 local authorities throughout the UK and it is unheard of for a council to effectively change a deal at such a late stage.

“It is disappointing this has happened in the same week the Conservative Government committed more support to help people fleeing domestic violence.”