Protesters pledge to keep fighting plans for new Sunderland YMCA hostel

Campaigners fighting plans for a new YMCA hostel in Sunderland say they feel ‘totally betrayed’.

Thursday, 30th May 2019, 9:23 am
George Callaghan, chairman of Silksworth Residents' Action group, and Ann Swain at Sunderland Civic Centre during a previous protest.

Proposals for the facility at the site of the former Church View Medical Centre, in Silksworth, prompted anger when they were approved in March.

But the scheme’s opponents have vowed to keep pressure on Sunderland City Council in the hope the decision could be reversed.

“The people of Silksworth don’t want it,” said George Callaghan, chairman of No Way to the YMCA and Silksworth Residents’ Action Group.

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“So how can we expect the children to integrate?

“4,500 people protested [in a petition] and most people in Silksworth don’t want it, but we weren’t listened to.”

He added: “We’re continuing with our protest and this will go on till they realise that place is not suitable.

“The majority of people in Silksworth feel totally betrayed.”

Several protests and marches were held in the run-up to the decision by Sunderland City Council’s Development Control Sub-Committee to approve the application.

This included plans for an eight-bed facility to support young people aged 16-21 leaving the care system.

The campaign saw more than 4,300 people sign a petition and 244 objection letters submitted to the council, with the fear of anti-social behaviour high on objectors’ list of concerns.

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

Care bosses stressed young people in the centre would benefit from 24-hour supervision and support from a rota of housing workers and care staff.

Protesters have also said they want to see the site continue to be used as a medical centre because they feel the area does not have enough doctors.

Kath Hope, chief executive of YMCA Wearside, said: “YMCA Wearside is committed to ensuring that young people in our community have a safe place to stay when their lives turn upside down.

“It is disappointing to see that some residents do not view this issue in the same way but we recognise their right to peacefully object.

“The harsh reality is that many young people across Sunderland leave the care system without anywhere to stay; are forced out of their homes with no family to rely on; or find themselves victims of domestic abuse.

“YMCA Wearside is determined to be there for these young people who would in many cases be left with nowhere else to turn but the streets.

“By giving them somewhere safe and secure we can help them rebuild their lives and move back into the community.”


James Harrison, Local Democracy Reporting Service