The application from Worthing Homes was given the nod at a meeting of the planning committee on Wednesday (June 23).
The three-storey block, in Clifton Road, will be run by Turning Tides under a 40-year lease arrangement as low-support accommodation ‘for people who are at the end of their journey out of homelessness’.
John Holmstrom, the charity’s CEO, told the meeting that 114 people were waiting for low-support accommodation so the need for such housing was ‘huge’.
The council received 15 letters of objection to the application, with concerns including: increased noise, the loss of the Victorian building currently on the site and the ‘adverse social impact’ some felt the flats and their tenants would have on the area.
Some of these concerns were voiced at the meeting, with one resident telling councillors that the area was ‘a very dangerous place to walk at night as it is and this is going to increase the danger’.
Mr Holmstrom said he was ‘very mindful’ of the concerns raised about the risk of anti-social behaviour.
He said: “This is our bread and butter – we have done this work now for 30 years – and this is for people who have already gone through a period of assessment and we are confident are ready to live independently with minimal support.
“But we will closely manage and monitor. We have very good processes, so if things do require attention we can move people back into our high support.
“But we will be there to listen to any concerns from local residents if, in the unlikely event, they arise. That is my reassurance.”
It was pointed out to the meeting that police had hand-delivered 400 letters to homes over the past few weeks, asking for feedback on how to address anti-social behaviour in the area – but only 12 responses had been received so far.
After a lengthy discussion, councillors approved the application unanimously.
Edward Crouch (Con, Marine) acknowledged that the scheme was ‘not perfect’ but added: “I think that is out-weighed by its public good.
“And there’s nothing more public and more good, in my view, than providing somewhere safe for some one to lay their head at night.”
In a joint statement, Turning Tides and Worthing Homes said the new flats would open next year and the immediate priority was ‘to support existing residents who have a desire to build a greater community within the area’.
Pointing out that there was already an affordable housing crisis before the pandemic, the spokesman said the number of people becoming homeless for the first time was ‘escalating’.
She added: “Now, we are seeing a sharp rise in redundancies, relationship breakdown, mental health struggles and domestic abuse – all these factors feed into homelessness.
“Consequently, we are working to secure appropriate opportunities to meet these challenges.
“The Clifton Road project will be for people who are at the end of their journey out of homelessness.
“This will free up places at the front end/high support projects within Turning Tides, enabling them to respond to the increasing numbers of people in need.
“Without these new developments, undoubtedly we will see more local people having to sleep rough, and for longer periods.”