11/30/2022

Wales News Online

Local & National News for Wales

Temporary extension given to homeless hostel amid drug use concerns

AN emergency hostel created to provide homeless accommodation during the Covid-19 pandemic has gained permission to stay open for another 12 months.

The former Grove Guest House in Wrexham was converted to offer temporary rooms in January last year following a significant increase in people becoming homeless in the area.

Wrexham Council, which bought the former bed and breakfast on Chester Road, applied in October to change the use of the property on a permanent basis to provide 16 bedrooms.

However, councillors have decided to only grant a temporary extension after hearing concerns from the local community over a reported increase in crime and drug use since the hostel was opened.

A total of 24 objections were raised against the proposals ahead of Monday’s (January 10, 2021) meeting of the local authority’s planning committee.

Jayne Dickson, who represented nearby residents, said the facility had caused a large number of problems, including people openly injecting drugs in public.

She said: “We can see with our own eyes the harm that has been caused to the amenity of the area, and the negative impact this is having on local people. It’s distressing and it’s untenable in our view.

“It’s a fact that neighbours have observed hostel residents crossing the road to do drug deals outside their houses, leaving the hostel to smoke cannabis or dropping their trousers and injecting into their groins and returning to the hostel.

“It’s a fact that the residents of the hostel are causing the problems and it’s a fact that we in this local area never experienced such problems prior to January 2021.

“People are scared, people are becoming depressed and saddened and it is impacting on their mental health and wellbeing.”

Ms Dickson said the council had failed to consult with neighbours before buying the guest house and should have explored other locations.

Officials previously warned that the authority could face a judicial review unless it tackled the growing number of homeless people.

The hostel was one of a number of measures drawn up to address the problem.

However, local councillor Rebecca Martin said the issues faced by residents were having a negative impact and it should only be used temporarily.

She said: “The Groves Guest House is currently providing a vital service for one of our most vulnerable client groups and the local residents understand this.

“However, it has been noticed by a number of residents that there has already been a substantial increase in anti-social behaviour in the local area.

“I’ve had reports of trespassing and of people knocking on doors asking for money, making residents feel intimidated and nervous in their own homes.

“One resident thankfully managed to stop their young grandchildren seeing it but witnessed somebody injecting drugs into their groin in an open and public area.”

She suggested planning permission should be extended for 12 months only while work is carried out to improve homeless facilities at the Ty Nos shelter on Holt Road.

Approval has already been given to build accommodation on the site but the committee was told the proposals had been delayed by phosphate issues.

Officials had earlier recommended permanent permission for the conversion of the guest house should be granted.

It came after chief housing officer Julie Francis said there was a need to ensure long term support for homeless people.

She said: “We have a statutory and moral obligation to house all of our citizens who might find themselves in such distressing times as being homeless.

“They are living in very difficult circumstances, especially during the pandemic where people have lost their jobs and homes and there’s been a vast increase in homeless numbers.

“The facility is manned 24/7 and has a curfew at 8pm, so our occupants are not out after that time.

“It has had significant success in moving vulnerable individuals on to a better life.”

She described the number of incidents caused by people staying at the hostel as “very minimal”

But committee members decided by 18 votes to one to only extend planning permission for a further 12 months, with one councillor choosing to abstain.

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