Plans for the 19-room homeless shelter on Spa Lane were initially passed by councillors in August, but they re-emerged at Monday's overview and scrutiny meeting after chair Coun Philip Broadbank called the decision in for discussion, following security and location concerns he had received from residents.
“I know it's a council owned site, but (there are) a lot of questions about why this hostel should be unlike the others - out of the town centre and placed on the outskirts of the town, bearing in mind all amenities are based in the town,” Coun Broadbank, the ward member for Starbeck, said.
"As the local member, I feel their (constituents) concerns need to be raised."
Cabinet member for housing Coun Mike Chambers said he was "very well aware there were some initial concerns" from the public about the proposal, but the temporary nature of the accommodation, and level of staffing, meant he was comfortable with the Starbeck site. "The whole idea is that we bring them into purpose built temporary accommodation staffed at the proper level,” he said.
Concerns about security were addressed by a council officer, who said there would be staff on site throughout the working week, the area would be extensively covered by CCTV, and a housing options officer would be on call "24/7, 365 days a year".
In regards to security, “there’ll be someone there all the time” a council officer informed councillors.
However, council leader Coun Richard Cooper took aim over what he described as a "negative undertone" regarding the concerns.
“There's an undertone here that I really don't like,” he said.
"The people who are going to be in this property are in many cases going to be vulnerable people...We're a compassionate society, we want to help people get over their issues with mental health, depressions, addictions.
“I don't want anybody here to think or accept as fact as an undertone that these people are undesirables in any way at all.”
Liberal Democrat chief Coun Pat Marsh responded by saying she took exception to suggestions that users of the shelter were being perceived in a negative way.
“This isn't about us saying we don't want undesirables...it's a question about staffing," she said.
“They need guidance and they need support and that's what I was concerned about...we didn't want to leave them sitting in a bed sit 24/7.”
It appeared that concerns over the matter had been allayed however, with councillors voting unanimously in favour of continuing with the project as originally planned when the matter went to the vote
Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporting Service