A bid to turn a student block into a homeless hostel in Coventry has been rejected after concern not enough had been done to tackle fears over crime.
The council’s bid to change the use of 72A St Margaret Road, St Michael’s, was narrowly thrown out by a planning committee on Thursday, October 15.
Committee members said they were “sympathetic” to the issue of homelessness but serious doubts were raised over the location and security measures in place.
Plans sparked huge concern from neighbours who had sent 22 letters of objection and a petition of 164 signatures in opposition, also raising concerns over drug issues on nearby Far Gosford Street.
Speaking at the planning meeting, committee member Cllr Naeem Akhtar said: “If we put people who need more support in that area we will see the problem in the streets – we have seen that in Hillfields. We can’t police that 24 hours.
“Once they are out of their flat we will see people outside the off-licence and in the streets. If we don’t support them properly there’s no point putting these vulnerable people in an area if they have drug or alcohol issues – you are putting them right next to the drug dealers or off-licence.”
The council made a last-minute change to plans to tackle safety fears, converting one of the 16 single rooms into a ground-floor office staffed 9am-5pm.
Council head of housing Jim Crawshaw said it was a “high-quality supported environment” with secure gating, 24/7 CCTV monitored off-site, and a phone number for residents to call if any issues arose. Anyone found to have caused anti-social behaviour would also be evicted, he said.
But the committee feared a lack of 24/7 staffing presence on site could lead to anti-social behaviour in the evenings.
Cllr Catherine Miks said: “I believe the CCTV cameras are not going to prevent things, they are just going to catch things.
“Considering the office was only put in as an afterthought I don’t believe this is right for the vulnerable people that we have a statutory right to take care of, but we also have a statutory right to take care of our residents.”
Ward councillor Jim O’Boyle, who backed the petition, said the area had become “transiant” in nature due to the high number of houses in multiple occupation and an existing homeless provision on the street already.
One resident, Paul Davies, said residents feared a number of HMOs were being used as “bail hostels”.
He added: “We are not NIMBYs as our residents run a homeless shelter in the local church so we know vulnerable people in rehabilitation must be distanced from exploitation.
“This proposal was rushed without residents consultation. It is evasive, has poor due diligence, wilfully fractures community cohesion and will create a family-free zone by using inappropriate location for planning creep.”
West Midlands Police raised some concern over crime although did not object due to the conditions put in place, while planning officer Dean Leadon said he was “satisfied” it would be well-managed and recommended it for approval.
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The council said it would have created temporary accommodation for single homeless people aged over 18, providing more suitable accommodation at reduced costs and helping to avoid the use of expensive B&Bs and hotels.
The council agreed to purchase the building from Coventry University in March.
The bid was narrowly rejected four against and three for.
Cllr David Welsh, cabinet member for housing and communities, said he was “disappointed” by the decision.
He said after the meeting: “The point of this scheme is to have people with the lowest needs so they move on to permanent forms of accommodation from this accommodation. I am disappointed for that reason.”
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