A COMMUNITY leader has defended a hostel for homeless young people after residents’ concerns about it were aired in a newsletter.

The YMCA centre that opened in South Burns, next to the Market Place in Chester-le-Street, earlier this year, is featured in the Liberal Democrats’ North Lodge Focus.

In it, party activist Craig Martin says residents in the North Lodge area have “expressed concerns about those who cause problems not being removed fast enough”.

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He says that residents who break the YMCA’s rules are given a month to find alternative accommodation, in which time he says they can continue causing trouble.

But Derek Briggs, chairman of the town’s Central Residents Association, says Mr Martin’s comments no longer apply.

He said there was a problem with a “few bad apples’’ when the hostel first opened – mainly with people shouting at passengers at the bus stops opposite – but it had been stopped.

Mr Briggs said: “They have changed their procedures and they have now only got homeless young people from Chester-le-Street in it. 

“We have not had any problems for many months.

“His whole article is about how it is bad, how the young people are bad and how there is much trouble.”

Mr Martin said he supported the work of the YMCA and called for more facilities for housing the young and homeless in County Durham.

He added that he was responding to concerns that residents had about “incidents they have been involved in relating to the YMCA".

Mr Martin said: “After starting to deliver my leaflets I was alerted to the fact that changes have been made within the YMCA, my next leaflet will include a story about these changes.”