A YMCA chief has defended plans to create new accommodation in a community despite fierce opposition from residents, saying it will not be a “bail hostel or doss house” if granted.
Last month a petition signed by more than 4,000 people was presented to Sunderland City Council against proposals to turn the former Church View Medical Centre in Silksworth into a home for eight young people leaving the care system.
Objectors have cited potential problems with anti-social behaviour as their main concern.
The YMCA previously argued that using the site as a hostel it will go towards helping the “huge issue” of young people leaving care at 16 with nowhere safe to stay and in some cases even ending up on the streets.
Now, Labour councillor Alex Scullion, who represents Houghton ward, has defended the plans in his capacity as chairman of YMCA Wearside.
“As far as we are concerned there are no major reasons as to why it should be turned down,” said Coun Scullion.
“Residents in Silksworth have been very vociferous in their views, but I think they have been misled over what the facility is hoping to be.
“If I was told there was going to be a residence for high-risk adults near where I lived I would have concerns as well, but the truth is that this is not what this is.
“It will be a family home for young people with two parents that care who are looking after them.
“That’s all that it is.
“We’ve heard people say things that it’s going to be a bail hostel or a doss house which isn’t true.
“There is a need for this type of accommodation everywhere.”
Related: Protestors present 4,500-signature petition against YMCA hostel plans for former medical centre
Coun Scullion added that some residents have been to see the YMCA’s Fence Houses site recently, and the visits were amicable.
“There has not been one anti-social behaviour incident at Fence Houses,” he said.
“When there are calls to police over incidents that is because we have got to stick with safeguarding and wellbeing rules so it has to be reported.
“There have been comments previously about the site in Toward Road (in Hendon) and yes, that has had a lot of complaints over the years, but it has done a lot of good for people too and it’s a bigger unit than the one that would be in Silksworth.”
Silksworth councillor Phil Tye, who is backing the residents opposed to the plans, said he and others are still fighting the plans.
“This site has no communal or garden facilities and isn’t suitable,” said Coun Tye.
“We’ve heard of a campaign by residents living near another YMCA site in Evelyn Street in the Thornhill area.
“They have contacted us to tell us about police being called out there quite a lot because of anti-social behaviour incidents and that’s why we don’t want a similar site in Silksworth.”
Northumbria Police have since confirmed that there have been 15 callouts to the address concerning a range of incidents this year, with 12 made in 2017.
No date has yet been set for the change of use application for Church View Medical Centre to be heard by a Sunderland City Council committee.