The new ABC Council’s planning department has recommended full approval to replace the controversial Edward Street hostel – a 15-bed development for rehabilitating ex-offenders.
The approval is given in the face of strong local opposition – although the hostel will replace the existing facility which has been in operation next door to the PSNI office for a number of years.
The Council’s Planning and Regulatory Committee was to discuss the proposal as the Portadown Times went to press.
Residents and other stakeholders said they were worried that two other units of accommodation in the street would be used in the interim and would continue after the new development was completed. There were fears that the number of clients would double.
But The Simon Community, which is co-managing the accommodation, insists there are no plans to increase overall bed numbers in the main hostel and that a second hostel would be a five-bedroom property for homeless people.
A residents’ spokesman said, “They won’t tell us what type of ex-prisoners are being accommodated, and any meetings we have had have ended in confusion.”
They added, “Up until two or three years ago, number 21 was simply known as ‘Edward Street Hostel’ and accommodated general homeless people who were down on their luck for various domestic and social reasons. It was never any trouble.
“But two or three years ago things changed. We have found hypodermic needles, there have been noisy barbecues, and we’ve had to lock off a gateway that was permanently open.”
A council statement said, “Officers have considered carefully all objections to the proposal. The objections do not amount, individually or cumulatively, to a reason for refusal and that all issues that have been raised have been adequately addressed and the relevant bodies consulted.”
Demolition is due to start soon and the new accommodation should take over a year to complete.