More than 5,000 students could be placed at risk from “county lines” drug dealers if plans to open a short-stay homeless hostel go ahead.
That’s the warning from college chiefs in a letter to Brighton and Hove City Council.
The council plans to convert two neighbouring properties into a hostel for 20 homeless people and rough sleepers.
The properties are the former Lavender Lodge care home in Caburn Road, Hove, and a shared house in Dyke Road, by the Old Shoreham Road traffic lights.
They are opposite BHASVIC (Brighton, Hove and Sussex VI Form College) and a short walk from Cardinal Newman Catholic School.
The council said that the “service model” would be similar to William Collier House, in North Road, Brighton, George Williams Mews, in Portslade, and the Equinox Women’s Service, Hove.
All three places help people with a history of drink and drug problems and none is as close to so many teenagers – a target group for “county lines” dealers.
In a letter to the council, BHASVIC chiefs said: “Firstly, we would like to make clear our support for any project which seeks to provide housing, shelter and rehabilitation services for the homeless.
“However, as the senior management team of the neighbouring sixth form college, we feel there are some clear risks, which need to be seriously considered by the local authority, in consultation with Sussex Police, in siting this particular project here.
“In the context of ‘county lines’ activity, which may specifically target vulnerable people who are located together, there would appear to be significant risks if the accommodation is positioned directly opposite a college of 3,000 16-19 year old students, many of whom travel from across the county, with all the attendant potential for reaching a much wider ‘market’ to be exploited by the ‘county lines’ gangs.
“The risk may be perceived as even more acute given the fact that Cardinal Newman secondary school is within five minutes’ walk, giving further access to an additional 2,500 11 to 18-year-old students.
“In addition, the proposed accommodation is in very close proximity to Dyke Park – an area which, in our understanding, the police have already identified as of concern in relation to criminal and particularly drug-related activity by having to increase their daily patrols around here.
“It will be difficult for the college’s senior management to comment in detail on the planning application until we have been provided with information about how the entrance, exit and waiting of service users would be located and managed outside the building and along the pavement area.
“We have students coming and going from the college, alone, at all working hours, including up to 6pm at night, and we would want to be assured that they would continue to be safe within the immediate vicinity of the college.
“We would be grateful for due consideration to be given to the risks outlined above and feel that siting this project at this location would be unwise.”
Four other neighbours have also sent objections to the council about the plans to combine the two properties by knocking through the top floor. The buildings are already joined at ground floor level.
The council said that the premises would be staffed by professionals around the clock 365 days a year and would house rough sleepers and single homeless people for up to 28 days.
A report to the council’s Planning Committee, which meets next week, recommends approving the scheme.
One anonymous comment on the council’s website said: “Objection based on no provision for outside space in design, therefore with 22 new residents on the street there is potential for loitering and noise outside when people smoke or congregate.
“The street has lots of children that play as it’s a cul de sac, raising a concern over their safety.
“Similarly the close proximity to BHASVIC where there are many young students. It feels like this will again be a risk.”
Another neighbour said: “While I fully support the provision and expansion of support and services for homeless people in Brighton and Hove, I feel that this application may not be suitable for a very residential area which also has several schools close by.
“It really depends on the detail of the precise client group and how well managed and resourced the proposed provision will be.”
The council said that the building would be divided into blocks of flats, bedsits or bedrooms designed in a way that should reduce anti-social behaviour.
A report to the Planning Committee said that Sussex Police had been consulted about the plans and that five crimes had been reported in the area in the past year.
The report to the committee said: “Given the levels of reported crime … there is no evidence to foresee any impact that the proposed application will have on the immediate location, neighbouring residents and occupiers.”
The committee is due to decide the planning application on Wednesday (6 November). The meeting, at Hove Town Hall, is scheduled to start at 2pm and should be open to the public.
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