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Scheme will see former Samaritans office turned into six apartments
CONTROVERSIAL plans for six new flats for “vulnerable people” have been approved in Worcester, sparking fury from nearby residents.
People living near the Samaritans office at 9 Sansome Place, in Lowesmoor, say the area is plagued by drunks and homeless people.
Under the scheme, the Samaritans will move into the office next door so Smart Lets, a social lettings agency, can carve number 9 into six homes for people at risk of homelessness.
The city council’s planning committee approved it by five votes to three despite 56 campaigners sending in letters of objection.
Resident Michelle Sanders, speaking on behalf of Lions Court residents, said: “This is already a high crime area and there are concerns about drug use and an unacceptable level of problems.
“With the issues we’ve already got, more people with alcohol and drug problems will cause massive problems in the area.”
She also told the committee her daughter has been given “a rape alarm” due to the number of homeless people around Lowesmoor, and that she had seen drunks urinating in the street.
The property, which will be divided into bedsits and flats, is the brainchild of Worcester Citizens Advice Bureau and the Housing and Benefits Advice Centre (WABAC).
The city council has contracted the organisations to provide services for residents at risk of homelessness.
Martyn Saunders, chief executive of WABAC, said: “We have no intention of placing people in this property with drug and alcohol issues.
“What we are trying to do is provide an option for people who cannot afford access to the private rented sector, who could otherwise end up in the situation Michelle describes.
“Whatever problems exist, there’s no reason to think this will contribute to that.”
The planning committee was completely split on the project, with some saying it was a worthy scheme and others critical.
Councillor Robert Rowden said: “To cram all these people into one building seems a bit much to me.”
Councillor Allah Ditta added: “There are problems in this area with drug use and other kinds of things which go on - residents do have concerns.”
But Councillor David Wilkinson, the vice-chairman, said there was a shortage of social housing in Worcester.
“It might not be perfect but we do have a shortage of social housing and I am minded to support this,” he said.
Councillor Andy Roberts then said the committee would be “discriminating on the grounds of poverty” if it was rejected, which led to heckles from the public gallery.
It was approved 5-3 with councillors Aubrey Tarbuck, Allah Ditta and Robert Rowden all voting against.
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