Controversial YMCA hostel plans for ex-Sunderland health centre set for approval

Campaigners protest against the YMCA plan.
Campaigners protest against the YMCA plan.

Controversial plans to open a new YMCA hostel in a Sunderland suburb could be given the go-ahead next week.

More than 4,300 people have signed a petition against proposals for the former Church View Medical Centre in Silksworth Road. 

The ex-health centre is set to be given approval to become a YMCA hostel.

The ex-health centre is set to be given approval to become a YMCA hostel.

This includes creating an eight-bed purpose-built space for young people leaving the care system aged between 16-21.

Wearside YMCA bosses have stated the plans will support care leavers at risk of homelessness and provide a safe space to help them “rebuild their lives and move back into the community”.

Since plans were announced, the ‘No Way To The YMCA’ campaign has gained traction, with placards lining the streets and around 200 people marching in protest last year.

Campaigners have cited potential problems with anti-social behaviour as their main concern.

Next week, a final decision on the hostel plans will be made by Sunderland City Council’s area Development Control Sub-Committee.

And a report, prepared by planning officers, argues that the plans are “acceptable in principle”.

If approved, YMCA Wearside will work with the council’s children’s services agency, Together for Children, to place care leavers from Sunderland.

The facility would be supported by a rota of five housing support workers, a specialist care worker, daily visits from an outreach worker and 24-hour telephone support.

And the applicant would need to apply for a seperate house in multiple occupation (HMO) licence covering security, management and plans to prevent anti-social behaviour.

Church View Medical Centre closed in September 2017 with the previous owner “gifting” the building to the YMCA with an aim of supporting Sunderland’s young people, a report states.

Since ‘change of use’ plans were submitted, 4,384 people have signed a petition in opposition with a total of 244 objection letters also submitted to the council.

Silksworth ward councillor, Phil Tye, has previously raised concerns about the management of other YMCA facilities in the city around anti-social behaviour.

In a statement to the council, he has called for the Silksworth plans to be refused claiming planners have a “duty to listen to the overwhelming (sic) majority of objections.”

A report, drafted by planning officers, also states no objections were lodged from police from a “crime prevention point of view”.

It concludes :“The impact of the proposed use in respect of the amenity of neighbouring properties has been carefully assessed.

“It is considered that it cannot be reasonably concluded that the use would inevitably result in an increase in noise, disturbance, crime and anti-social behaviour or impact on the character or amenity of the area.”

Any future ‘change of use’ bids for a bail hostel or young offender institution would also require separate planning permission.

Councillors will discuss the YMCA plans at Sunderland Civic Centre on Monday, March 4.

The meeting starts at 4pm and for more information, visit www.sunderland.gov.uk/committees/cmis5/Meetings.aspx

Chris Binding, Local Democracy Reporting Service