Plans to convert a number of Chester properties into homeless accommodation have received a mixed reaction from residents.
The two properties on Brook Lane, in Chester, were previously used by the University of Chester for student accommodation but have been empty for more than two years.
Cheshire West and Chester Council are proposing a mix of 21 rooms and studios for the homeless at 26, 27 and 28 Brook Lane which they hope will be a ‘vital’ source for the homeless community.
The rooms will comprise of 13 bedsits at number 26 and 27 and eight bedsits at number 28.
In a letter to residents, Alison Amesbury, Senior Manager Strategic Housing and Commissioning at CwC, said: “There is a borough wide shortage of accommodation that meets the needs of the people who have difficulties to overcome in order to be able to improve their lives and live independently.
“We are addressing this by embarking on various development projects in west Cheshire to provide temporary and supported housing for people who have lost their homes for a variety of reasons.”
If planning permission is given, the properties will be managed and staffed by the council’s homeless support contract provider, forfutures – with on-site CCTV to ensure the properties remain safe and secure.
The plans have received both support and backlash among the community.
One Brook Lane resident has set up a petition – ‘Residents Against Homeless Shelter at Brook Lane, Chester’.
The resident, who does not wish to be named, told Cheshire Live that there are a number of other more suitable places in the Chester area for the homeless to be accommodated.
He said: “I am not against homeless people or providing accommodation for them, I regularly help out with homeless charities, but this is not a suitable area for them.
“There’s plenty of other areas, like Sealand Road for example, that can be better for them.
“I am not tarring homeless people with the same brush as I know some are ex-military and people are between houses and some are respectful people, however there is a minority that engage in crime and drug misuse and other substances, we can’t have this in this residential area.”
In its planning application, Cheshire West and Chester Council states: “The property will provide move-on accommodation for homeless clients who would move from emergency accommodation or hotels into this property.
“This scheme will help residents become tenancy-ready for their own property in 6-12 months time.”
The proposals for 26-27 Brook lane would be to have 13 studios/rooms which will include a kitchenette and bathroom.
Four of the 13 rooms will have an en-suite bathroom, four others will have a kitchenette and a shared bathroom, and the other three will share both a bathroom and kitchen facilities.
A staff office is also being proposed at the front of the property as well as a separate staff toilet.
Meanwhile, at 28 Brook lane there is a total of eight proposed studios rooms which include; three self-contained rooms with both a kitchenette and bathroom.
One of these rooms has an en-suite bathroom, three have a kitchenette and a shared bathroom, and one shares both a bathroom and kitchen facilities.
The petition against the plans, which has received 173 signatures so far and can be found here, reads: “Locals already know that the Northgate Park, opposite, already has problems with the homeless, drink and drugs.
“The proposed shelter is on a school route.
“The residential area is a location of privately owned, well maintained, high value properties and house values would plummet/houses would not sell in that area if this went ahead.
“Imagine the current problems we already face with the homeless in the city centre but moved right outside your home!”
Residents have until Thursday October 8, to comment on the application before it goes to the planning department for a decision to be made.
The resident believes the council is “rushing through” the application without a proper consultation with residents.
He said: “Three weeks (from receiving the letter about the plans) is not enough time to consult.
“Many residents here are elderly and most of them don’t know how to use a computer or have one so how can they inform the council of their comments?”
Did you know we offer a free email newsletter service?
Each CheshireLive bulletin delivers the latest breaking news, what’s on events and the hottest talking points straight to your inbox. For more information about how – and why – to subscribe, click here.
However, Cheshire West and Chester Council have said all nearby residents have received letters and they will continue to communicate with them.
A council spokesperson said: “The consultation with residents has begun.
“We have written to nearby residents and will continue to correspond with them and keep them informed during the planning process.
“We expect these proposals to be considered at a meeting of the planning committee in early November.
“In the meantime, if you wish to comment on the planning application, you may want to register your views here. Residents without access to a computer can share their comments by writing to Development Management, Cheshire West And Chester Council, 4 Civic Way, Ellesmere Port, CH65 0BE.”
Since the petition was launched another has now been set up in support of the council’s plans.
The counter petition – Residents in support of proposed Homeless Supported Accommodation at Brook Lane, Chester – has received 64 signatures so far (at the time of writing).
The petition, which can be found here, reads: “We are facing unprecedented times, action MUST be taken to support people who are homeless, and to prevent more people facing the same crisis.”
A Cheshire West and Chester Council spokesperson added: “The council is focused on reducing the numbers of homeless people in hotels by moving them into their own home.
“We are increasing the amount of supported accommodation to give people the support and skills they need to maintain their own tenancy. Although there is limited availability of accommodation in Chester and the surrounding residential areas, the properties on Brook Lane are considered suitable.
“This proposal is for supported, managed accommodation with ongoing support to address all its residents’ support needs.
“It is not a homeless shelter; there will be no emergency beds or drop in services. The services provided will be for residents only.
“The properties will be managed by the council’s commissioned homeless support provider Forfutures and will be staffed 24/7.
“Residents will sign an occupancy agreement outlining the rules of their stay.”