Lord Lister: Keystage CEO issues statement to neighbours as planning row continues

Lord Lister Hotel Hitchin

Concerns have been raised about plans to change the use of a Hitchin hotel into temporary supported accommodation for homeless people - Credit: Courtesy of Keystage Housing

The CEO of Keystage Housing - which runs supported accommodation for the homeless out of the former Lord Lister Hotel in Hitchin - has issued a statement entitled "we are all neighbours".

The statement by James O'Grady begins with an apology and an assurance that "we are listening to you – and going forward, I hope we can listen and learn together".

It reads: "As a community, we have all experienced some of the unfortunate incidents that have taken place at our site in Hitchin.

"As a member of your community, and as your neighbours, we are sorry you are experiencing this and sorry that it is impacting your lives."

This follows an incident on Saturday, April 30, involving a disturbance between a client and her care worker.

Mr O'Grady continued: "The journey into homelessness is different for every person. With a rise in no-fault evictions in the UK of 17 per cent and the end of the Everyone In agenda during the Covid pandemic, homelessness continues to be a presence for all of us."

The lengthy statement included a number of promises made to the local community, including that the team would be "mindful" and "respectful".

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He also called for a change, stating: "Let’s change perceptions, let’s help people change and let’s change that number of 600 homeless people dying each year: let’s bring it down."

This comes after an application by Keystage Housing to change the use of Grade II-listed Lord Lister to provide short-term accommodation for individuals who have a history of rough sleeping or are at risk of rough sleeping, have recently been in prison or are engaging with probation services, and have a formal mental health diagnosis and/or have a history of substance and/or alcohol misuse. 

This was met with a raft of concerns from residents, and the consultation period on the council's online planning portal was extended until April 30 

The application has 173 objections online, with action groups also taking to social media to express their concerns. Five people supported the plans.

The hotel has already been home to Keystage’s services for a number of months after North Herts Council was successful in its bid for funding from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

The council was awarded £200,000 to grant fund the development of an accommodation and support scheme for homeless single people in North Herts.

To read James O'Grady's statement in full, go to keystagehousing.co.uk/we-are-all-neighbours.