ANGRY protesters have slammed senior councillors for failing to consult residents over controversial plans for a new homeless shelter.
Campaigners fighting plans to turn former old people’s home Richmond Court in Boughton into a 36-bed hostel staged a protest outside Cheshire West and Chester Council’s HQ offices last night.
About 80 protesters blew whistles and waved placards criticising the council , with passing drivers beeping their horns in support.
They then packed out the council’s executive meeting to lambast executive members over the way the local authority has handled the proposed scheme.
Council leader Mike Jones was forced to double the standard public question time with no fewer than 15 residents wanting to quiz the executive.
Francis Matthews, of Kimberley Terrace, said the council had failed to “fulfil its democratic obligation” to the people of Boughton and Hoole.
Frank Proe, also of Kimberley Terrace, said the decision-making process had been “flawed” and Dominic May, of Reservoir Terrace, said Richmond Court was the wrong location for a homeless shelter.
He said: “Can you please tell me one benefit of any kind the local community will derive from having this facility in its midst?”
Campaigners believe homeless people will receive a poorer service if facilities are moved away from the city centre.
They organised public meetings and petitions and the council subsequently agreed to carry out a consultation, although chief executive Steve Robinson said it would not focus on the decision to turn Richmond Court into a shelter.
Residents were outraged by Mr Robinson’s comments but yesterday the council backed down and confirmed it would provide full details on the decision-making processes that led to the choice of Richmond Court.
Boughton councillor David Robinson said there had been a “shroud of secrecy” around the process followed by the council.
He told the meeting: “You can see the strength of feeling. I hope you agree the range of questions put forward have been really responsible questions needing sincere answers.
“So far they have no confidence in the decision.”
Executive member for adult social care and health, Cllr Brenda Dowding, assured campaigners the council would address their concerns in full. “All questions will be answered formally and in writing. The public consultation will commence on October 1.”
Cllr Robinson had earlier addressed the protesters outside HQ and thanked them for turning out in force. He told them: “We have got to keep fighting. We have made some progress but there is a hell of a long way to go.”
The council has awarded its homelessness service contract to Foundation Enterprises North West (FENW) – a consortium formed by Chester and District Housing Trust and Forum Housing Association.
Yesterday afternoon the authority confirmed the three-month consultation would look at the decision to use Richmond Court, contrary to what Mr Robinson had earlier told campaigners.
Cllr Dowding said: “It is essential information about the services to be provided from the centre and issues concerning building design and service management. The role of Richmond Court in the community, should be fully understood and accepted by all involved.
“We hope residents will get involved and have their say on all aspects of this project, which has been set up to change the way we work with this vulnerable client group for the better.
“We also hope residents will welcome the renovation of this derelict site and the sensitive management of the facility by FENW.”
The consultation will also cover the council’s approach to homelessness, the services to be provided at the new centre, the timetable for the implementation of the new service and ask for views on building design, security and the way services are to be managed.
See full story in the Chester Leader