Editor’s comment: Happy Vale prosecution is a good start

Happy Vale Hotel in Harrington Square, Mornington Crescent.

Happy Vale Hotel in Harrington Square, Mornington Crescent. - Credit: Harry Taylor

It’s heartening to see Camden Council getting a result in court over the Happy Vale Hotel, whose owners have admitted two charges of letting the property fall into disrepair.

The Ham&High’s investigation earlier this year revealed shocking conditions at the hostel in Mornington Crescent: filthy sinks, rodents in the kitchen, blocked toilets and broken plumbing. One tenant told us: “There is no way human beings should be left here for as long as we have been.”

Most of the charges against Hospitality Zone LLP, the hostel’s owner, were dropped, and in the end it left court with a rather modest bill for less than £700 – the cost of a (large) handful of parking tickets.

That’s because when the council inspected in January, Hospitality Zone was effectively hamstrung by an ownership dispute that meant it couldn’t carry out all the repairs it wanted to. Fair enough.

But by the time we visited a month later, Hospitality Zone actually was in charge – so I believe it bears greater responsibility for the conditions we saw then than the ones the council did a month earlier.

Hospitality Zone has now served eviction notices on the tenants who were living there when we arrived. Hopefully Camden will now get them into safer, cleaner temporary accommodation – and, ultimately, into permanent homes – so they can get on with their lives.

And in the meantime, I hope the hostel is either cleaned up and reopened, or that someone else steps in to provide a decent hostel to fill the gap. Temporary accommodation shouldn’t be a necessary part of any council’s housing portfolio but between the loss of homes through right to buy, the impossibility of borrowing enough cash to build replacement council housing, and the rocketing cost of land, it is a sad fact people would either be on the streets or out of London without it.

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The least its providers can do with the public cash they are paid is to keep it in good working order.