Homeless to take on hall

Oranges Gym, Queen Street, Wakefield
Oranges Gym, Queen Street, Wakefield

HOMELESS people will be given the chance to get back on their feet with a new project on the site of Queen Street Hall.

Yesterday councillors granted planning permission for 23 apartments, shops, a cafe and office space built on the site of the hall, on Queen Street.

Homeless people will be given the opportunity to live in the complex, work in the shops and take part in a furniture business running from a workshop on the lower ground floor.

Queen Street Hall, previously used as a performing arts venue and health club, will be demolished before the development gets underway.

The applicant Antony Hester, 44, told councillors he had 28 years of experience working with homeless people.

He said: “In this economic struggle, homelessness is on the rise.

“There needs to be something like this in every city so that homeless people can get themselves back on their feet.

“We can’t just give people money and hope that they help themselves – here, we are giving them somewhere to live, work and acquire skills that will help them to move on.”

Mr Hester said the site would have one member of staff on site at all times, with two other members of support staff.

He said an “army of volunteers” would offer support to the tenants and help them to learn new skills.

But Coun Betty Rhodes said elderly people living in nearby flats had objected to the application.

And she said the development would be inappropriately placed to help homeless people.

She said: “I don’t think anybody would object to helping the homeless but I do wonder how this will help them. This will be a hostel with many communal facilities rather than contained flats.

“People who are getting this sort of help should not be placed five minutes from the Westgate Run and in an area with already a lot of police attention, drinking and anti-social behaviour.”

Mr Hester said he would now look for the funding needed to kickstart the project, and hoped it could be underway within six months.

Queen Street Hall was last used as Oranges health club.