YMCA housing in Moulsecoomb given thumbs up

The YMCA DownsLink Group has been given planning permission to build 30 flats on a “challenging” scrap of land in Brighton.

Eastergate Road Illustration
Eastergate Road Illustration

The £3 million scheme will provide “transitional” studio flats for single young people who have been homeless or in care but were working or in training or education.

The charity has been working on the scheme, in Eastergate Road, Moulsecoomb, with the land owner, Brighton and Hove City Council, and hopes to start building work within three months.

It hopes to complete construction, using prefabricated modular sections, by the start of November.

Garage site for YMCA Downlink housing site

The prefab homes will go up on the site of old garages behind the row of shops in Moulsecoomb Way, Moulsecoomb, and the neighbouring Oakendene flats on the corner of Appledore Road.

The council’s Planning Committee voted unanimously in favour of the scheme at Hove Town Hall on Wednesday February 5).

The committee imposed a condition – requested by Councillor Daniel Yates – that the charity agrees a management plan for staffing the site, as promised during consultation with the local community.

Councillors were told that the size of each flat would 27 square metres – smaller than the widely accepted national space standard of 37 square metres.

But the modest size was deemed acceptable because they flats would be occupied by just one young person aged 18 to 25 for a limited time of up to two years.

YMCA Downslink has a long lease from the council on a low rent and a £1.5 million grant from the government agency Homes England to help fund the £3.1 million project.

Homelessness campaigner Jim Deans, who lives nearby, spoke against the plan, saying that it was the wrong scheme in the wrong place.

He said: “If it had been 10 permanent homes for these people, I would be there laying the foundations myself.”

Mr Deans said: “These people need more permanent accommodation. What happens when we run out of these places and have nothing left to build housing?

“These kids deserve better than what this option is. The best option for these kids is in smaller groups.”

He was concerned that they would get the blame for anything bad that happened in the area.

YMCA Downslink chief executive Chas Walker said that the site would be staffed seven days a week day and night.

Mr Walker said: “The plans we are bringing forward today have been worked up in consultation with young people. They had significant input in finalising the design.

“We are a local landlord and we want to ensure that our housing fits well in the communities in which we work.”

He said that the design would give young people their own front door rather than have them living in shared accommodation.

Labour councillor Daniel Yates, who represents Moulsecoomb and Bevendean, was concerned whether enough space would be allocated for staff.

Councillor Yates said: “It is very clear that this is a scheme with a very specific purpose and as a consequence is designed to fit into a difficult piece of land.

“I know this site well as it sits in my ward. If we tried to meet all the requirements thrown at them in the past 24 months – building for families, longer-term relationships – we would not fit in 30 homes or 30 people.

“I do think it works. My only concern is the lack of communal space and outdoor amenity.”

Conservative councillor Carol Theobald said that she would have liked to have seen a lift in the plans for the four-storey scheme although she appreciated that this would add to the cost.

Councillor Theobald said: “On the whole I think it is an excellent scheme and a very good use of the site for young people starting out.”

Green councillor Sue Shanks said that the flats would be bigger than the rooms offered to many university students.

Councillor Shanks said: “These young people will have had appalling home lives and childhoods to end up in supported accommodation. This is very good.”

YMCA Downslink has agreed to make a £36,000 “developer contribution” towards recreation and open spaces in the area.

The charity would also be expected to pay £3,000 towards the “local employment scheme” to increase job opportunities and training for those wishing to work in the construction industry.

And it would also be expected to make a £13,600 contribution towards improvements to pedestrian routes serving the site, including Moulsecoomb Way.

After the meeting Mr Walker said that the scheme was much-needed and would be built and opened as soon as possible.