Aster is selling Marlborough's hostel for the homeless - with agreement of Wiltshire Council
On Thursday, September 15 a house at 28A St Margaret's Mead will be auctioned by a firm specialising in the sale of residential housing by auction. This is no ordinary home - it was Marlborough's hostel for homeless people. Until it closed.
Its sale came as a shock to town councillors when Councillor Mervyn Hall raised it at the council meeting on Monday (September 5). None of the councillors present - representing the town or Wiltshire Council - were aware of its sale. Or of its closure.
Councillor Hall wanted to know what alternative provision Wiltshire Council was providing.
A spokesperson for the Aster Group told Marlborough.News: “St Margaret’s Mead Hostel in Marlborough is currently owned by Aster. The decision has been taken to de-commission services provided at St Margaret’s Mead which forms part of a larger contract review between Aster and Wiltshire Council."
"The review has been implemented due to low demand and recent changes in allocation criteria made by the Local Authority. Aster has held several meetings with Wiltshire Council who are supporting the decommissioning of St Margaret’s Mead."
“A detailed financial and social appraisal was carried out on the scheme; taking in to account the reduction in demand as well as the high investment costs, following this the scheme is deemed to be unviable to retain."
"Aster is committed to meeting the Homes and Communities Agency's* Value for Money standard through identifying underperforming assets for disposal to generate resources for reinvestment. The proceeds from the sale of 28a St Margaret’s Mead will be reinvested into enhancing similar services in other areas and in the development of affordable homes in Wiltshire.”
A spokesman for Wiltshire Council told Marlborough.News: “We constantly review our temporary accommodation provision for homeless households across the county and some of the units we use are managed by Aster Communities. Our aim is to ensure we are providing the most effective support and service in the areas households need to live."
"In a joint review with Aster, it was identified that this scheme was not meeting the needs of the housing options service and, as a result, it was decided to invest funding in providing an enhanced provision elsewhere – including high intensity support to help vulnerable homeless people from all over Wiltshire."
"The few tenants in the building who are from different parts of Wiltshire, have been rehomed already and are settling in well.”
Marlborough.News has found no trace of a public consultation on either the closure or the sale of the hostel.
Allsop residential auctions state a guide price for the building of £450,000. The hostel has been run by the Aster Group on behalf of Wiltshire Council.
The Allsop website details state: "Possible development potential, subject to obtaining all necessary consents" - and helpfully give the contact details for the Wiltshire Council planning department.
The property is on two floors with a roof that is part pitched and part flat. Externally, there are gardens to the front, side and rear and there is off-street parking.
On the ground floor there is an L-shaped reception room, play room, two kitchens, a utility room, separate WC, shower room, an external covered passage to an office, store room, boiler house and bin store. The first floor has six rooms each with a hand basin.
* The Homes and Communities Agency is an executive non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Department for Communities and Local Government. It was set up to help "...create successful communities by making more homes and business premises available to the residents and businesses who need them." They also regulate social housing providers in England.