Planning committee gives the go-ahead for Hemel Hempstead homeless hostel

Plans to build a 41-bed hostel for the homeless in Hemel Hempstead have been given the go-ahead.

The project for a modern development including residential space, IT suite, library and a communal garden in Redbourn Road, Hemel Hempstead, was approved after some debate among Dacorum Borough Council’s Development Control Committee last night.

Artist's impression of the planned 41-bed hostel to be built in Redbourn Road, Hemel Hempstead.

Artist's impression of the planned 41-bed hostel to be built in Redbourn Road, Hemel Hempstead.

The hostel is expected to be run by Dacroum’s homelessness charity DENS, and chief executive Andrew Liversidge spoke passionately in favour of the approval at the meeting in Hemel Hempstead’s Civic Centre.

Mr Liversidge said: “Right now, Dacorum is seeing the highest level of homelessness that I have seen in my 12 years of doing this job.

“Benefits are being cut and supporting agencies are losing their funding. If we are going to wield the stick of benefit cuts, let’s not make the mistake of removing support from the agencies who are going to give them support.

“By voting positively, Dacorum is demonstrating that it wants to do something to break the cycle of poverty.”

There was, however, disagreement among councillors on the committee about the hostel’s design.

Councillor for Woodhall Farm Colette Wyatt-Lowe said: “It is absolutely admirable – I don’t have any qualms about the proposal.

“But I am absolutely appalled at the lack of architectural merits of this building. It looks like a warehouse for the homeless.”

The design, which will be set back from Redbourn Road at the site of the former Elms bungalow used by Druglink, features shades of red and random-placed windows as well as protruding black ‘boxes’.

Several councillors including Mrs Wyatt-Lowe expressed a desire for more screening of the building with trees, while others including councillor for Aldbury and Wigginton Rosemarie Hollinghurst saying the building should not be hidden away from view.

The application was eventually approved with 11 votes in favour.

Housing development manager at Dacorum Borough Council Jack Burnham, who submitted the application for the hostel, said after the verdict: “This is something that Dacorum is really passionate about. Affordable housing is one of the key priorities and this homeless hostel will really help further the council’s aims.

“The council and government are putting around £4million into this project that is really going to change the lives of a lot of the most vulnerable people in the community.”

The completed hostel is expected to open in March 2015.