The conversion of a former guest house into a house of multiple occupancy for homeless people was given the go-ahead last night by planners… although compromises were made to the permission.
Residents had shared their fears over the controversial plan.
It had been proposed the former Castle Lodge guest house on Castle Road would become part of the council’s homeless recovery pathway, acting as a stage two facility for people that were ready to live by themselves and start to regain their independence.
However, councillors said that a lack of consultation with residents of Castle Road, by the applicant Two Saints, led to a lot of misinformation that led to objections, stereotypes and panic.
Representative of residents, Matt White questioned whether the Isle of Wight Council could guarantee the safety of their children and said residents were ‘quite frankly not just concerned but scared by the proposals.’
“We are very concerned with the impact the proposal would have on the residents, who currently enjoy a peaceful and orderly environment in which to live, raise their families or enjoy retirement, free from anti-social behaviour and are at a loss to understand how the proposal is appropriate under the council’s planning policies.”
He argued turning the guest house into a HMO would not be in line with the council’s planning policy to encourage tourism.
The council’s housing needs service manager, Jamie Brenchley, told the meeting:
“We are speaking about people, like me and you.
“There seems to be a lot of judgement, stereotypes and labels that have been associated about people who ultimately find themselves without a home.”
Mr Brenchley said this proposal was not for those with complex needs that required 24-hour support but that the support proposed was ‘over and above’ what these individuals may need to live in the community.
Cllr Geoff Brodie proposed to accept the officers’ recommendation, granting planning permission, and said he understood it was highly contentious but if more had been done by way of consultation and councillor engagement it would not have reached this stage.
Cllr Brodie said when a stage one homeless recovery shelter was proposed in his ward at the former Barton Primary site, he made the effort to communicate with everyone who could be affected to ensure they were comfortable with it being there.
The application was called before the planning committee by former councillor John Hobart who shared the concerns of residents, but Cllr Brodie said it seemed as if he failed in his duty as councillor to ensure people knew about the application at an earlier stage.
Cllr Matthew Price echoed Cllr Brodie’s comments about Two Saints’ failure to engage with residents and said there was an element of myth-busting that needed to be done, even if that was leaflets through the doors, a contact at Two Saints or online meetings.
The application will turn the property into an 11-room HMO, suitable for up to 12 residents, with staff present on-site 7 days a week from 9:00 to 8:00 Monday to Saturday and 9:00 to 12:00 on Sundays with 24/7 support through on-call managers.
This follows on from comments made by Hampshire Constabulary’s Designing Out Crime officer who broadly supported the development but only if the residents of the HMO were at an appropriate stage in their recovery and there was effective onsite support for them at all times.
The fact that the comment from the police had not been fully addressed by the proposals, was an issue for Cllr Price, who said while it was not his ward residents had been in touch to voice their concerns.
Cllr Price said he had heard nothing in the meeting to say they should ignore the police officer’s recommendation, and while he was not making any judgement on the people going into the HMO, felt residents’ concerns had not been fully met.
He proposed a change to the officer recommendation, which would make residents more comfortable that the number of units in the building be reduced to 8 and a review period built-in if there had been no incidents to increase the capacity to its full potential.
Planning officer, Sarah Wilkinson, said if the change went ahead the council would be open to a challenge and advised there would be anxiety over how else to use the empty space in the building.
Instead, a temporary consent was offered as a compromise for the HMO, where after three years the planning permission would lapse and Two Saints would need to apply again to keep the building as an HMO.
Cllr Price withdrew his motion and supported Cllr Brodie who had accepted the amendment for a 3-year time frame.
Cllr Paul Brading, however, refused to second the amended motion saying people would be in place to manage the situation and ensure it was working before the 3-year limit.
Overall, Cllr Brading, Cllr Price and five other members of the planning committee voted in favour of granting planning permission, with none against and no abstentions.
It was determined the planning permission would run for three years from the date of commencement, not the date that permission was granted.
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