Plans to permanently change the use of a Grade II listed hotel in Hitchin into a support living accommodation for homeless people have been approved by North Herts Council's planning committee.

At a previous planning meeting, members of the committee moved to defer the decision, and sought to consult the Highways authority on a proposed barrier to access the site, and required further information from Herts police regarding reports of anti-social behaviour.

Lord Lister has been operating as a homeless provision by the applicant, Keystage Housing, since December 2021.

Objecting, Scott Moyer, joined by resident landlady of The Half Moon, Emily Best-English highlighted issues which "contravene planning policy".

Emily added:: "My husband and I have owned the Half Moon Pub, which was recently classed as an Asset of Community Value, for nearly five years.

"As the business directly adjoining to the Lord Lister, I am telling you that this has had a massively negative impact on our business and lives. The anti-social behaviour of the Lord Lister residents since December 2021 has led to regular customers no longer using our pub, musicians being too scared to perform after receiving abuse over the fence from the residents, and finally the loss of trade brought to us when the hotel was operating.

"Bradshaw and Johnson accountants prepared a financial statement, comparing periods between December and March, when the Lord Lister was open as a hotel, against the same period after it was taken over by Keystage.

"This shows a clear reduction in takings of £32,000. How can you approve this application knowing the negative impact it's having on my existing business?"

Councillors Keith Hoskins and Clare Strong spoke as member advocates in support of residents.

Cllr Strong said: "The hostel, due to its close proximity to the adjoining business and residential properties, will have an adverse impact on the local area, and therefore the proposals will undermine the quality of life for local residents, and is incompatible with the surrounding residential and business users.

"I also believe that insufficient consultation has been done to take into account the views of the community and the impact that the loss of the hotel would have."

Operations director for Keystage Housing Toni Nye said: "Having supported 25 people referred by North Herts Council in the last nine months, the reality is stark and requires an urgent response.

"With the response until now often being hotels as spaces which lack support and are often out of borough, people are left isolated from their support network, and even further away from the support services that they vitally need.

"It's been suggested that our service at the Lord Lister is not an appropriate use of a Grade II listed building and that the town centre is not an appropriate location. We would respond, that this use in a town centre location in an existing building is a sustainable development, with regards to access to shops, service, public transport, providing accommodation for vulnerable people who also have the right to safety and security."

Following a debate, six councillors voted to approve the application, and three voted against.