Appledore – Cruise ship plan to tackle housing crisis

Plans to tackle the housing crisis in part of Devon being putting refugees or homeless people on cruise ships will be explored. Torridge District Council voted to look into the feasibility of leasing or renting a vessel to accommodate emergency or other housing list people.

Lewis Clarke www.devonlive.com

Torridge District Council had previously declared that they were committed to tackling the housing crisis in the area. Previous ideas included the possible use of modular housing units, evaluating options to reduce the number of empty homes, and bringing forward schemes in partnership with local social housing providers

But at the full council meeting at the end of December, proposals to accommodate refugees or homeless people on cruise ships in Devon were discussed. Councillors voted ‘overwhelmingly’ in support of the motion put forward by Cllr David Brenton.

His motion said: “With the large numbers of cruise ships being scrapped or laid up due to a fall in demand following Covid. I propose that TDC explore the feasibility of forming a partnership with our neighboring authorities i.e North Devon and Exeter etc, with a view to leasing or renting a vessel to accommodate emergency or other housing list people.

“Cruise ships have a high standard of habitation and self-contained servicing and a suitable craft which would fit into Middle Dock could provide a quick solution for some of our desperate citizens needing housing.”

Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Brenton added: “We live in radical times which call for radical measures to alleviate them. We do need to look at what’s coming our way and it’s about to hit the fan. It’s getting quite serious now over the question of accommodation.

“The very fact that our Home Secretary – who I try not to listen to very often, if at all – did mention it in one of her speeches about cruise ships being used for accommodation. I then heard it from the Scottish National Party housing minister, also talking about it.

“It is feasible I believe. They are scrapping perfectly good accommodation because there is no demand for it. We are in a unique position where we own Middle Dock which has got a good birthing situation there, despite over the years the shipyard had bought out some vast vessels to park alongside there.

“This clearly needs a lot of work to be done alongside this. It may be an ideal thing for an intern or apprentice to do some homework on this, but also to contact our neighbouring authorities.

“I have spoken to the housing officer at Exeter City Council who expressed an interest, but not in writing yet. I would also like you to have somebody look into this as a possibility.

“Bear in mind that the Ukrainian refugees are coming to the end of their period of being with host families and there are those who would like to find a place to live, and that will not be easy. We have AirB&B and all sorts of things conspiring to stop people getting accommodation, so we need to consider any possibility.”

Cllr Rachel Clarke added: “The idea in principle is very good. My concern is that when you put lots of people in tight accommodation like that, you’ve got to think of diseases and illnesses which could happen. Do we have the right infrastructure for doctors and nurses which we have a major problem with?

“It needs a lot of work and you’ve got to spread it out as there are other things, such as alcohol or drug issues. It’s not an easy fix. We’ve just got to think it through properly.”

Cllr Simon Newton said: “Scotland have been using cruise ships to accommodate Ukrainian refugees as they came over, initially as a holding centre and then when they could be found permanent accommodation, they could then move out. The difference there and going along the line of what Cllr Clarke has just said was that a single focus group who were socially going to mix well and easily together. While they came with many traumas they were unlikely to create other issues, whereas there are quite clearly many other issues.

“The idea is a good one, it’s thinking out of the box, and from my background, we’ve used this type of accommodation around the world many times in the past. You can sail up an instant hotel and accommodate people on it.

“Where you put it, and how you do it, is a completely different game. But the idea of thinking out of the box is completely worthy.”

Cllr Peter Christie added: “When I saw this first, I suspect I had the same feeling as many of us that this was slightly crackers. Having said that, I think it is worth looking at.

“I used to be in the merchant navy, and the big problem with ships is maintenance. I think we need to approach the harbourmaster, Appledore Shipyard, and ask them about this. It could be an ongoing cost that is so high it would rule it out, but by all means let’s look at it.”

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