“I’m over the moon!”
The words of Mrs Gina Banash, on hearing the news that her ten months of living hell were over.
On Friday morning, Mrs Banash of Civic Drive received a call from her Housing Manager at Ipswich Borough Council, to tell her that the council were no longer giving two neighbouring flats to the drug rehabilitation charity, CRI, for their planned expansion.
The organisation, which has been operating from the previous Civic Drive pub premises since early 2011, had successfully gained funding in March last year to convert the council flats above their premises into a “recovery centre”. Aimed at working further with the six hundred clients on their books, CRI hoped to offer music, dance and other activities to their clients seeking a life away from drugs and alcohol – at the same time increasing their operating premises by more than double. The flats CRI wanted to convert included Mrs Banash’s home and two other flats recently vacated by tenants.
Back in 2010, as newly elected Borough Councillor for Alexandra Ward, I’d unsuccessfully opposed CRI’s planned change of use for the ‘Victoria’ pub site and what followed were a number of meetings with residents with complaints about the transformation works whilst they were being carried out and in the months following their opening, countless problems with CRI clients and their associates who were abusing residents of the flats. In fact CRI accepted that there was a problem when they applied to IBC last year for change of use for the flats and had gained funding to not only convert them, but enable the moving of any remaining tenants.
When CRI submitted their plans to convert the properties, I approached Ipswich Spy, who ran an article bringing Mrs Banash’s plight to the public and working closely with Gina, helped her to write a strong letter of opposition. Accompanied with criticisms by Planning and Environmental Health, a sudden withdrawal of the application came just before Christmas. Though we celebrated this temporary victory, we knew that another application would likely be submitted – and it was, in early January. In the meantime, Mrs Banash saw growing levels of support from friends, bloggers and Facebook users, with a campaign that went viral – piling pressure onto Ipswich Borough Council.
Friday saw the sudden unexpected termination of this ten month battle with CRI and the authority, as the Borough Council finally bowed to pressure and withdrew their offer to CRI, ending months of hell for an Ipswich pensioner who wasn’t going to be bullied out of her home – a home she raised her family in and had lovingly looked after for 28 years.
This plight, is not only a well deserved victory for Mrs Banash, but a victory for people power, demonstrating that public pressure and constructive objection to a ridiculous planning application really can work. Not only is Gina’s home safe, but the flats will be put back where they belong – in the IBC housing stock.
Note – At the time of publishing this article, the planning application was still live, and though Mrs Banash has been told that her neighbouring properties are not to be converted, until the application is withdrawn a 2000 word letter of objection will be on the desk of planners this morning.
Yesterday, a press conference was held to present the winning entry for the new Cornhill to the press. Audio is a bit poor and there’s a bit of camera shake. This is likely to be the first of many videos from Ipswich Spy. Hopefully our Labour council will finally allow council meetings to be recorded for all to see.
Courtesy of Ipswich Spy