CONTROVERSIAL plans for a new homeless hostel would turn an area of Chester into a haven for drug users.
That is the claim from residents as a consultation gets under way on the proposal to turn the former old people’s home at Richmond Court in Boughton into a 36-bed shelter.
Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) has already approved the plans.
But residents living close to the proposed hostel launched a campaign to fight the plans and staged a protest outside the council’s HQ offices last month.
Opponents have blasted the council for failing to consult them before the plans were approved and argue Richmond Court is the wrong location for the new hostel.
Boughton resident Mike Chidley, 44, said: “The location for the hostel is absolutely terrible and will cause all sorts of problems for us in the future should it be given the green light.
“Richmond Court is surrounded by terraced houses and connecting alleyways with no CCTV, which will become a haven for drug dealers and those dependent on drugs and alcohol.
“There doesn’t seem to have been a any foresight in terms of these plans, with the council not seeming to have thought about or fully understood the problems that will be caused for residents in the Richmond Court vicinity.”
CWaC eventually agreed to carry out consultation with residents with the three-month consultation beginning yesterday.
“While I don’t doubt the services provided by the hostel will be well managed and delivered within their own four walls, there has been no provision made for residents who will be affected,” said Mr Chidley.
“We have been told everyone will have a background check prior to entering the hostel and that they will react to any problems. That’s no good, we don’t want problems to arise in the first place.
“This hostel belongs in the city centre where it can be fully monitored and will have minimal impact to residents in the area.”
The council awarded its homelessness service contract to Foundation Enterprises North West (FENW), a consortium formed by Forum Housing Association and Chester and District Housing Trust, stating their desire to provide an improved service for the city’s homeless.
Cllr Brenda Dowling, executive member for adult social care and health, said: “When setting out our vision for the new homeless service we were looking to put each individual at the heart of provision, increasing and tailoring support to help more people permanently back into settled accommodation.
“The accommodation offer in the FENW bid includes bringing Richmond Court into use as a modern centre designed to provide high quality, well-managed services based on a clear understanding of the problems, needs and aspirations of people who experience homelessness.
“It is essential information about the services to be provided from the proposed centre should be fully explained. Equally it is vital the voices of residents are heard and the views expressed during the consultation are very carefully considered.”
Residents and traders living near Richmond Court are being sent information packs which include a letter introducing the service, an information brochure and feedback forms.
Drop-in sessions are being held over the consultation period at Campbell Memorial Hall in Boughton with representatives from the three organisations.
Information on the decision-making processes that have led to the choice of Richmond Court will also be provided.
Cllr Dowling said: “We hope residents will visit our drop-in sessions, speak with officers from all three organisations and have their say on all aspects of this proposal, which is intended to change the way we work with this vulnerable client group for the better.
“We also hope residents will welcome the proposed renovation of this derelict site and the sensitive management of the facility by FENW.”
The results of the consultation will be fully documented and published in a report.
See full story in the Chester Leader