Marlborough's homeless hostel not sold at auction

Written by Tony Millett on .

The attempt by Aster to sell the town's homeless hostel at a London auction of residential properties (Thursday, September 15) was unsuccessful.  Allsop's, the auctioneers, say the property in St Margaret's Mead was not sold as it did not reach its reserve price and is still marked in the catalogue as being 'available' for purchase.

The controversy over the hostel was raised again during Marlborough Town Council's planning committee meeting (September 19) by the chairman, Councillor Mervyn Hall:  "The Town Council wasn’t consulted - we have no official remit on homelessness - but we all feel that it’s an important issue for the town."

He outlined the history of the hostel, which had been unearthed by Councillor Stewart Dobson - see final paragraph below.  
Councillor Hall explained:  "Aster were legally obliged to consult with Wiltshire Council and after careful consideration, it agreed with Aster that this particular 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 in the county."
"This is clearly disappointing.  Though current tenants have been rehomed, it looks like there will be no replacement for this facility for Marlborough and, if a need is identified in the future, it’s doubtful that it could be met."

Earlier, in a statement, Councillor Dobson (a unitary and town councillor) had some advice for Aster: "I am personally very disappointed that Wiltshire Council have agreed for Aster to dispose of this building. I believe that it provided a much needed service to vulnerable and needy people and would be difficult to replace if a future need was identified."   

"I am assured that the few tenants who were living there have been successfully rehomed elsewhere in the County. I am also confident that Wiltshire Council will robustly defend the local needs and only ever agree to similar requests from Aster if they are confident that that need is not placed in jeopardy."

"I believe that we must always ensure that Aster are not just making decisions with regard to all housing issues just on financial viability, but are aware of the important role they have in the local community as providers of social housing."

The background is that the building was included in the asset transfer when housing stock owned by the former Kennet District Council was transferred to the Sarsen Housing Association.  As part of that deal, the housing association could only dispose of the property with permission of the district council.  Sarsen became Aster and Wiltshire Council inherited the district council's duties.