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Dartington asked to house Afghans

Tuesday, September 7th, 2021 7:24am

By Philip Churm, local democracy reporter

Totnes High Street (courtesy: Philip Halling/Geograph/LDRS)

'Golden opportunity' for Trust to help

A South Hams councillor says the Dartington Trust should provide housing for Afghan workers and their families currently fleeing the Taliban. 

Cllr John Birch (Lib Dem, Totnes) said: “As far as providing accommodation for refugees from Afghanistan, there’s a golden opportunity here for Dartington Trust to help out.” 

Cllr Birch was speaking after South Hams District Council appealed to local landlords to come forward to help meet the acute need for homes under the government’s Afghan resettlement scheme. 

But the council stressed that sourcing accommodation for people fleeing Afghanistan adds to increasing pressure for housing for local people and urged private landlords to offer homes. 

“As a community, we want to do whatever we can to support the government and county council in finding accommodation for formerly employed Afghan workers and their families,” said Cllr Hilary Bastone (Conservative, Dartmouth and East Dart) South Hams District Council’s deputy leader.

“The lack of affordable private rented accommodation in the area also continues to mean many families face long periods of time in temporary housing situations whilst we struggle to secure them long-term homes.  

“The problem is that we simply don’t have enough properties to meet our local needs. That’s why we are asking landlords in our local communities to come forward now and help us offer a solution.

“Under the Afghan resettlement scheme, we are looking to source a private-rental sector property to offer to an eligible family.

“The county council will commission support to assist the family to integrate and settle into the area. Our understanding is that the scheme will be similar to the Syrian Resettlement scheme, which South Hams District Council already supports.

“We also continue to reach out to landlords to sign up to our SeaMoor lettings scheme, which offers a full property management service. We are hopeful that the community of South Hams will show their generosity and that we will receive offers of accommodation to help those relocating from Afghanistan and those local families who are also in need of homes.”

Local authorities are restricted in where they can relocate Afghan families in order to ensure they can get support. So South Hams council is specifically looking for family-sized properties in Totnes for the families.

But Cllr Birch said the council should consider asking the Dartington Trust, a local arts and ecology organisation that has a large amount of land.

“The Dartington Trust, which is neighbouring Totnes, has several buildings that I believe would fit the bill.

“And therefore I, as a local councillor, would like to see Dartington Trust step up to the mark and arrange for accommodation to be provided. They did that in the past with Syrian refugees, and I see no reason why they shouldn’t do it now for the refugees from Afghanistan.

“There are several properties on the Dartington estate that are empty and I believe will be able to accommodate people from Afghanistan.”

A spokesperson for Dartington Hall said: “We haven’t been approached by South Hams Council yet but will review this internally.” 

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