Plan to convert Poundstretcher store into home for vulnerable people in Yorkshire receives 140 objections

A scheme to convert a former Poundstretcher store into a training centre with accommodation for vulnerable people has attracted 140 objections.

Proposals for the site on Carlton Street, in Castleford town centre, have sparked an angry reaction from residents since being published earlier this month.

Wakefield-based charity Gasped want to build training and educational facilities on the ground and first floors and temporary accommodation for 19 vulnerable people on the second floor.

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Some objectors fear the plan could lead to more anti-social behaviour in the town centre.

Plan to turn former Poundstretcher store into home for vulnerable people receives 140 objectionsPlan to turn former Poundstretcher store into home for vulnerable people receives 140 objections
Plan to turn former Poundstretcher store into home for vulnerable people receives 140 objections

In September last year, Wakefield Council leader Denise Jeffery called for greater police involvement as she revealed how she had felt frightened during a visit to Castleford town centre.

Others say the project is not in keeping with plans to re-generate Castleford.

More than £23m of Government funding has been promised to breathe new life into the town centre.

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Castleford was dealt a hammer-blow last week as Marks and Spencer announced plans to close it’s Carlton Street store.

One objection on Wakefield Council’s planning website states: “The town of Castleford was once a very busy retail destination where families convened on a regular basis.

“Of late it has become the opposite and creating more spaces to house the vulnerable will result in more businesses leaving the town.

“The town centre is a victim of mindless crime and it’s a very uncomfortable place to walk now.

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“Existing buildings of this nature are falling into disrepair and are becoming litter hubs.

“The local authority has an obligation to ensure our town centre reflects a welcoming place to go for all ages.

“In recent years it resembles the local tip in many areas.

“Housing for the vulnerable is required, but I’m not sure a town centre location is the right location.”

Another resident opposed to the plan said: “Castleford and its people deserve better than this.

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“Please listen to those of us who live here, to those businesses who have a commitment to the town, rather than individuals and organisations who simply view it as a source of cheap property.

“The proposed use of this building is the last thing the town centre needs, so please reject this application.”

A third objector says: “I initially wanted to support this project. The ground and first floor plans look great. Dance studio, cafe, climbing wall, weights, etc.

“The second floor, however, makes my blood run cold.

“Nineteen ‘bedrooms’ lined up like prison cells.

“Hardly the environment for any vulnerable person.

“There are already several HMOs (house in multiple occupation) in and around the town centre and I don’t believe anyone can argue that these haven’t had a detrimental effect in town, be it because of shoplifting or other anti-social behaviour.”

Five people have so far written letters of support.

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One resident in favour of the plan states: “This building is currently an eyesore, same as several other buildings in the town centre.

“The training and educational facilities along with other community projects can only be a positive for the town and its people.”

Gasped, an acronym for Giving Advice and Support to People in Emotional Distress, has been working with communities in Wakefield, Castleford and surrounding areas since 1995.

According to the charity’s website, it aims to raise awareness about addictive behaviours, suicide, mental health and domestic abuse.

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Volunteers, counsellors and therapists give support to people struggling with issues such as unemployment, homelessness, domestic violence, low self esteem, suicide, poverty and substance misuse.

The Poundstretcher store was opened in Castleford in the mid 2000s.

In 2018, the branch featured on the Channel 4 documentary Saving Poundstretcher, in which senior management tried to turn the store into a prototype for other shops.

In the documentary, it was stated the Castleford branch was taking £12,000 a week, only half of what it need to be profitable.

The store closed its doors in early 2019.

In June 2021, Russian discount supermarket chain Mere announced it had earmarked the building as a site for one of its stores.