Homeless hostel near Chester-le-Street approved

PLANS for a major revamp of a homeless hostel have been given permission despite residents’ objections.

The Cyrenians charity runs The Fells, next to the A167 at Plawsworth, on green belt between Durham and Chester-le-Street, which was formerly known as the Direct Access Unit.

It is currently the only emergency accommodation in County Durham.

The charity has secured £1.8m of Government funding for a scheme that will see virtually all of the site’s existing, ageing buildings demolished and replaced.

The current provision of 45 beds will be maintained.

The planning application has been approved by Durham County Council’s north area planning committee in the face of objections from some residents and the parish council.

Senior planning officer Steve France told councillors that the 1980s-built prefabricated buildings on the site were in a poor state of repair.

He said that the charity planned to remove these and build new ones in three phases to maintain the facility’s services.

He said that although the site was in Green Belt, where there was usually a presumption against development, the scheme was an exception because it the replacement of existing buildings.

Councillors heard that four letters of objection had been sent by residents who feared that the development would have a detrimental impact on their amenity.

The objectors raised concerns about the management of The Fells and questioned whether the nature of the facility had changed since The Cyrenians took it over.

Residents also raised concerns about the “security level” floodlighting on a multi-use games area within the site. Some also said they had to endure anti-social behaviour, crime and noise and that some hostel residents drank and took drugs outside its perimeter.

But The Cyrenians said in a statement that their aim was to improve the life chances of hostel residents.

Three tiers of care were provided at the site, which was manned 24-hours a day by a total of 17 staff.

Councillors welcomed the application.

Councillor Peter Brookes said: “It is fairly straightforward.

“It is a like-for-like replacement, it is the same number of places, modern facilities, which has to be a good thing.

“All the objections have been mitigated and I’d like to support this recommendation.”

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