University plans to block alcove to keep rough sleepers out

King's College London has applied to Southwark Council for permission to build an extension to the Greenwood Theatre near London Bridge to prevent rough sleepers and drug users from gathering outside a fire exit.

University plans to block alcove to keep rough sleepers out

King's College London wants to build a small extension to the Greenwood Theatre at the corner of Snowsfields and Weston Street. The extension would enclose an alcove currently used by rough sleepers.

The Greenwood Theatre is part of KCL's Guy's Campus and the wider Guy's Hospital site.

The building is leased by KCL from the Guy's & St Thomas' Foundation (a charity that is separate to Guy's & St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust).

The alcove - which was occupied by three men taking shelter when the SE1 website visited on Saturday evening - is painted in a bright pink colour scheme which was introduced in 2015 when the outside of the theatre was given a makeover by Dame Zandra Rhodes and Joe Swift.

"The external lobby is used by vagrants and those using drugs as a shelter and for sleeping," wrote chartered surveyor Mike Jackson in the planning application documents submitted on behalf of KCL.

"KCL’s staff are constantly having to clean the lobby and remove hypodermic syringes, needles, and other drug related items, which is obviously a hazard to the staff.

"The use of this lobby for sleeping could be an issue when it needs to be used as a means of escape.

"Following a review of how to police or protect the area, the conclusion is that the only effective way is to reposition the final exit doors to enclose the lobby.

"If the doors were positioned across the existing opening, they would be at an angle to the external path; those using this exit to escape in an emergency may expect that the route would continue square to the doors, which could result in an accident.

"It is proposed to provide a small extension that would align the doors with the lobby and the exit pathway."

For more information see application 24/AP/0038

The university's proposal is likely to revive memories of the 2014 controversy over spikes to deter rough sleepers installed outside a Southwark apartment block which were removed after a public outcry.

The Greenwood Theatre is just yards away from the Manna Centre, a day centre for homeless people, which recently warned it is facing a £75,000 deficit amid rising demand for its hot food and advice services.

In summer 2023 rough sleeping in London was up 12 per cent on the previous year, according to City Hall figures, with outreach teams recording 4,068 individuals sleeping rough in the capital.

Last month Mayor of London Sadiq Khan visited St John's Waterloo for the launch of the London Charter to End Rough Sleeping.

Tags: Health, Planning & Development, Homelessness, Southwark, Politics & local government, Education

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