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Station street housing plan

Monday 2 July

Empty office to help with housing

A disused office building could be used to help tackle the shortage of temporary accommodation in the borough.

Swale Borough Council’s cabinet is being asked to approve plans that could see the empty office building on Station Street, Sittingbourne, converted back to residential use.

The building is owned by the council, and was previously home to Citizens Advice Swale, who moved to Swale House in January, leaving the building vacant.

As demand for office space in the area is low, and the building was previously a dwelling, a feasibility study was carried out to provide plans and costs for a conversion back to residential use.

There is currently limited supply of emergency temporary accommodation in Swale, with many local families having to be found bed and breakfast accommodation in Medway. Once converted, the property could provide three self-contained units to help local people who become homeless in the short term.

Cllr Alan Horton, deputy leader and cabinet member for housing and safer families at the council, said:

"Given the difficulty - and cost - of finding suitable temporary accommodation for local families who are in need of our help, we think this might be a good use of the property.

"There’s still work to be done before a final decision is made, but it does seem like a good idea to use a building we already own to help people when they need us most.

"This will help keep them in their local area, and save the cost of paying for expensive accommodation out of the borough.”

Cllr Duncan Dewar-Whalley, cabinet member for finance and performance at the council, said:

"The building has been sitting empty since January, and isn’t in the right place to continue to be used as an office.

"We have looked to see how we can make best use of the building, and as it was previously a residential property, we believe a return to its former use would be most appropriate."

Cabinet is being asked to approve taking forward the proposal to use convert the property to temporary homeless accommodation, and should they agree, further work will be carried out to ensure the proposal is feasible, before any decision is made.

The cabinet meeting will take place on Wednesday, 11 July.

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