Homeless hostel in former city centre nightclub facing mounting criticism

A homeless hostel planned for a former nightclub in Wakefield city centre is facing mounting opposition.

Friday, 28th May 2021, 1:59 pm
Updated Friday, 28th May 2021, 2:00 pm
The old nightclub could become a hostel.

So far more than 130 objections have been lodged with Wakefield Council’s planning department over the proposals to transform the former Fanny and Bacardi building at the end of Bank Street, off Westgate, into a shelter accommodating up to 17 people each night.

The single-storey building has been vacant for a lengthy period of time, and applicant Helping the Homeless (Wakefield) Ltd suggests provision for those sleeping rough in the city is much needed.

They say since the coronavirus outbreak, local authorities have been urged to find new ways of housing the homeless, and the site would provide a “warm and inviting place” for people to “find their feet”.

More than 130 people have objected so far.

A planning statement reads: “The proposed development would result in the building being back into productive use, would make a positive contribution to social objectives and would provide help to address a shortage of such accommodation in the local area.

But the plans have caused concern for many, particularly for parents who have children attending Toy Box Nursery, just yards away on Market Street.

One wrote: “Terrible idea, housing these people so close to a nursery, I get that these people need a place to go but next to a nursery, stupid idea, then when/if Covid ever disappears and the clubs open back up, this will just be a magnet for crime and begging in the centre.”

Another said: “I completely agree that a hostel may be required, but the location is not suitable.

“I object to the change of use with the surrounding environment affecting the use of amenity by vulnerable users - parents and young children. Wakefield city centre is undergoing a regeneration this will sadly obscure all the hard work.”

One objector added: “Completely unfair on the businesses and people who live in that area.”

Wakefield Council’s strategic housing officer has also questioned the need for a hostel, saying there is “limited demand”, with evidence suggesting there are just four people bedding down rough each night, despite more claiming they have nowhere to sleep.

The plans show the building will be converted into 17 basic en suite bedrooms but with some communal facilities.

Applicant Helping the Homeless (Wakefield) Ltd has tried to quell concerns about rough sleepers loitering around the area, saying it will be open only from 8pm to 8am, and claim those who enter will not be permitted to leave and re-enter.

They have also tried to address points raised about rough sleepers travelling from other areas to use the hostel.

They said: “In this respect we would have protocols in place to deal with this should it occur.

“There may also be a concern that the hostel will result in the homeless congregating in the area. Local businesses and residents should not be concerned as the facility will not be open during the day and the doors will be locked at night.”

They added that the opening of a hostel also “fits neatly” with Wakefield Council’s strategies to tackle the issue of homelessness.