PLANS to convert a Llandudno bed and breakfast into council-run bedsits were again thrown out at a planning meeting today – despite the homeless situation being described as ‘dire’.
Conwy had received dozens of letters from concerned hotel owners complaining about anti-social behaviour, drug use, and police being called to the Mayfair.
Conwy leased the B&B for one year under emergency COVID legislation after it was revealed the county had 600 people living in emergency temporary accommodation.
But the council came under fire for continuing to use the site to temporarily house homeless people, despite the temporary planning permission to operate as an HMO expiring on July 5.
At the previous meeting, council officers recommended that the application for the building’s change of use be approved, but councillors rejected these plans, claiming the building was unfit for purpose.
The committee also said the application went against council policy of converting hotels in the tourist zone.
But because committee members went against planning officers’ advice, the application returned to today’s agenda where councillors had to reaffirm their previous decision before the rejection was confirmed.
But the debate again ensued, and councillors heard the homeless situation remained dire.
Cllr Mandy Hawkins proposed councillors reaffirmed their decision.
“Personally (speaking), this property is totally inappropriate and not fit for purpose as an HMO,” she said.
“It goes against all the policies within our own council. We need to be treating people with dignity and respect when we put people in temporary accommodation.
“I understand there is a dire need for it. It flies in the face of Destination Conwy because we know millions get brought into Conwy from tourism and we should not be using properties in the tourist zone (for temporary accommodation).”
She added: “We just need to be treating people a lot better when we are looking at temporary accommodation.”
Cllr Dave Jones said he agreed and seconded her proposal to reaffirm the previous decision to refuse the application.
But Cllr Chris Cater added: “I completely agree with the argument that Cllr Mandy has put forward because it (the accommodation) does seem to be substandard,” he said.
“The rooms don’t seem to be an adequate size. There is a shared kitchen and problems with the toilets and washing facilities; however, we know that the demand for emergency temporary accommodation is extremely high, especially in the Llandudno area.”
Cllr Cater then asked how many people in Conwy were currently homeless, adding that around 600 people had been living in temporary accommodation in June.
Head of planning Paula Jones answered: “The situation is still dire. I haven’t got the figures in front of me, but I do know clients are coming in thick and fast to the housing team, so there is significant demand.”
But Cllr Nigel Smith added: “It is a tricky one this. I haven’t actually visited the site, but I’m mindful of the fact that the local members are really concerned about the quality of this accommodation and whether it is fit for an HMO.
“Reading the report, it is doubtful. Whilst I sympathise that people are desperate for accommodation, we have to weigh up the quality and whether putting people in substandard (accommodation) is acceptable in this modern day. I’m not sure it is.”
Cllr Mandy Hawkins said: “I’ve spoken to people put in these properties. I only dread to think how I would feel if I was there when I was young with my girls.
“It’s not a situation we should be putting people in.”
She added: “A lot of people have an idea of what homeless people are, that they are drug addicts, that they are alcoholics. You may have a small minority like that , but not everyone is like that. The people I’m dealing with on a daily basis are working families. They are coming to housing because they can’t afford private rents on the wages they are on, but we have a duty to be housing people in property that is fit.”
The vote was taken and the refusal reaffirmed. Councillors were told the bed and breakfast is now vacant but were warned a future appeal is possible.