14th Dec, 2017

Homeless shelter looks set to be demolished to make way for student flats

Catherine Thompson 30th Nov, 2017 Updated: 30th Nov, 2017

A HOMELESS shelter looks set to be demolished to make way for student flats.

The Priors Club on Tower Street has opened every weekend for the past two years to those sleeping rough on the town’s streets.

LWS Night Shelter started out as a temporary project spearheaded by two students Susan Rutherford and Vishal Chauhan, to spare rough sleepers from the bitter winter.

But the service – which provides hot meals, sleeping space and an opportunity to socialise – soon proved popular, and the number of individual users has rocketed to 350 this year compared to just 250 in 2016.

Now the organisation provides food for around 40 people and some 20 beds each Friday and Saturday night and the heavy demand prompted the service to continue running, along with help from volunteers.

But the owner of the Priors Club – which no longer operates as a bar – has proposed to knock down the building to create three student flats with 19 bedrooms.

And the organisation has been looking for a new base since similar proposals were put forward and rejected two years ago.

Director of the organisation Jazz Singh said: “It was initially only a short-term project but we have created a demand, which obviously always existed, and we feel there is a moral imperative to to do as much as we can to help those who need us.

“We would love to expand, and maybe even become registered but because the future is uncertain we’ve been unable to achieve our long-term goals.

“Thanks to the kindness of the owner, LWS has been able to temporarily use as its base the Priors Club. But now the organisation needs to relocate to a permanent premises in order to continue to keep guests safe, warm and well-fed in the future.”

The shelter has been offered a new site by Warwick District Council, but on the condition it must raise £60,000 to renovate the building.

Along with impacting the homeless shelter, the plans to develop the Priors Club have been met with heavy opposition from residents and councillors including Labour Councillor Kristie Naimo.

Concerns included an inbalance in the community, excessive waste, increased noise, anti-social behaviour and parking issues.

Coun Naimo said the plans failed to meet the shortfall of housing in the area and the increase in HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupation) in South Leamington breached the ten per cent limit as set by the Local Plan.

But council officers say the breach would be an exception since the street is considered part of the ‘commercial core’ of the town.

Councillors will discuss the application at a planning meeting on Tuesday (December 5). The council did not wish to comment on the plans but says it will offer emergency accommodation if the shelter is unavailable.

Visit www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/lwsnightshelter to donate towards a new base for the LWS Night Shelter.

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