Controversial plans to convert a Bridlington care home into a house of multiple occupancy (HMO) will now be decided by a planning inspector.
Applicants Tracy Hollwarth and Barrie Craven applied to change the use of Birchdale Care Home on Tennyson Avenue in January, and have now appealed after East Riding Council failed to determine the application within the statutory eight week period.
The decision will now be taken out of the hands of councillors and will be made on the basis of an exchange of written statements and a site visit by an inspector appointed by the Secretary of State.
Plans for the 21-room building have attracted fierce opposition from locals, who fear it will be used by the homeless, immigrants and others with social problems and be of detriment of the town.
Bridlington Town Council and Bridlington Tourism Association have opposed the plans - as well as the Bridlington Renaissance Partnership who say that the development would not be consistent with the adopted Area Action Plan regeneration policy.
Bridlington’s Neighbourhood Policing Team also object to the development and in an objection letter, Sgt Carl Sweeting pointed to crime statistics from other HMOs around the area and said: “Humberside Police concludes that such a property is highly likely to have a negative impact on crime and disorder in the area and opposes our aims and objectives to reduce it, as designated in the local Policing Control Strategy.”
However Ms Hollwarth and Mr Craven have defended their development, and questioned the validity of the complaints.
Mr Craven said: “The development will be managed by a couple who will live on site. We have spent close to £60,000 on new windows, radiators, heating systems, roofing, plastering etc to improve the building and we are not going to be filling it with the sort of people who are going to wreck the place.
“I would also question the crime statistics from the police. Are the crimes recorded at managed sites like ours will be, and are they even in Bridlington?”
Amongst the objectors is former town councillor and president of the then Bridlington Guest House Association, Glenn Holmes; former chairman of East Yorkshire College and vice chairman of East Riding College John Gallagher; and his wife Helen, who has organised the Bridlington Arts Festival for 11 years.
Mrs Gallagher said: “If this is approved it will be the biggest HMO in the East Riding. The current biggest is 13 flats, the biggest in Bridlington is 12 flats.
“They have already been advertising accommodation - they haven’t even got planning permission yet - and claim there is a demand. We don’t know if these people are coming from existing HMOs or they are pulling people in from outside the area, even the West Riding.
“We are here as residents of Bridlington, we care about this town and we cannot let this happen. We want the town to see what is happening and to support us.”
Another objector, Martyn Ward, said: “There are a lot of similar empty properties in Bridlington which could go the same way. To some developers it is solution to make money.”
Objectors used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain a copy of a letter from Mr Craven to East Riding Council in October last year which offered the authority accommodation for homeless people, immigrants and “anyone else the council might feel it had a use for”.
Tracy Hollwarth acknowledged that the letter had been sent, but said it was one of many general enquiries made when evaluating a possible company acquisition.
She said: “Since making this enquiry things have changed and we are now looking at renting rooms in the building with an on-site manager to oversee the general running of the property.
“We have already had a number of expressions of interest, a lot of those from working people. I can’t understand where a lot of the negativity about the scheme has come from.
“We have always tried to be open and invite people to come and talk to us about any misconceptions they have, but we have only had one person come. We would love to show people round and answer questions.
“I can’t see how our development is much different from the B&Bs and guest houses who are complaining. We would rather see the building half full if it means getting the right tenants. We will try not to judge people but we are not actively seeking immigrants or tenants who have just come out of prison.”