Green light for 40-bed homeless shelter in Letchworth
- Credit: Haven First,
A planning application for a brand new, purpose-built homeless shelter has been given the green light - following a unanimous vote by North Herts district councillors.
Following the debate, planning control committee members moved to approve Haven First's application for the shelter in Letchworth's Pixmore Avenue - despite 82 objections made during the consultation.
The new shelter will provide beds for up to 40 homeless people - both men and women.
The committee heard from speakers both for and against the proposals during last night's meeting, with some citing fear of increased crime and anti-social behaviour - as well as the loss of an employment site - as reason to object.
Residents' representative, Sarah Choudhury, spoke to object. She said: "We believe that the developer has failed to demonstrate how the proposal fits in with the local area without causing a profound impact on existing and incoming residents.
"We request that the committee go back and review the entire process and we demand that the committee refuse this application to allow a review of an alternative location."
Councillor Sue Ngwala, who represents Letchworth East, supported the residents - highlighting the strong objections due to the "fear that a shelter of this nature will generate crime."
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She added: "I am acutely aware of the need for homeless provision. I would willingly support such an application were it in a more suitable location."
A number of comments on the council's consultation portal regarding the application were deemed "inappropriate" by planning officers - which was echoed by some councillors who described them as "disgusting". The comments have now been removed.
CEO of Haven First Barbara Howard said: "I would like to take away some of the misconceptions. Our residents have been referred to us due to relationship break-ups and mental health issues.
"Not all the clients are ex-offenders or have addictions. We received nearly 300 referrals last year, and feel that will continue to increase."
Councillor Gary Grindall also spoke to support the plans.
In total, 11 of the 12 councillors voted for the planning application - Councillor Ngwala did not vote as a member advocate in objection to the plans.