Council: clear out the junkies

Lottie Young 10 October 2007

Peterhouse is letting down the Cambridge community by failing to rid one of its properties of junkies, fly-tippers and squatters, according to a city councillor.

More than 80 incidents including vandalism and arson have been reported to police in connection with the disused college accommodation in Perne Road near Mill Road.

Shopkeepers in the units below the flats have suffered attempted break-ins, smashed windows and even flooding after yobs stole pipes and caused water to gush through the floor.

Police officers are also frequently forced to clear the debris-strewn property of drug-users and squatters. Cambridge City Council has decided enough is enough and has ordered college chiefs to secure the building and block access to its outbuildings.

Councillors called a meeting with police, environmental health workers and housing officers but despite reminders the college and Carter Jonas, the agency responsible for the building, failed to show up.

Carter Jonas claims it only found about the meeting from a nearby tenant, but Labour councillor Tariq Sadiq – who has been fighting to sort out the mess after winning the Coleridge ward election in May – has challenged Peterhouse to get its act together.

He said: “I am very disappointed that the oldest college in Cambridge is not taking its responsibility to the community seriously and failed to turn up to the meeting.”

Mr Sadiq now believes the only solution is to stop treating it as a problem for the police – and has called on Peterhouse to fund a redevelopment.

He said crime rates are low in the area, and is not willing to let the property continue to be a blot on the record.

The building’s decline began after it was leased out to an independent landlord more than 40 years ago. Despite buying back the lease three years ago following pressure from the council, Peterhouse officials failed to stop the rot.

Shopkeepers are now praying that rumours of a redevelopment by Savills turn into reality, but no planning application has yet been submitted to council planning officers.

One trader, who asked not to be named, said: “Something needs to be done, and soon. This is affecting business very severely.”

Peterhouse officials refused to respond to the criticisms levelled at them, and would shed no light on plans for the future.

Lottie Young