Temporary accommodation for homeless and vulnerable people is planned in Chichester

DM171440a.jpg. Chichester council leader Tony Dignum. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-170901-111140008
DM171440a.jpg. Chichester council leader Tony Dignum. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-170901-111140008

Chichester District Council plans to build up to 21 flats to help cope with increasing appeals for help from homeless and vulnerable people.

Since 2016/17, homelessness applications have risen by more than 13 per cent, with the council having to place people in expensive bed and breakfast accommodation due to the lack of available emergency space.

A report to a meeting of the cabinet said that, over the past six months, between two and nine families have been living in bed and breakfast at any one time, with some placed outside the district.

Now members have supported plans to demolish a property in Freeland Close, which was bought last year, and replace it with a maximum of 21 one-bedroom flats.

Another possibility would be a combination of one, two, three and four-bedroom flats to house families.

Susan Taylor, cabinet member for planning services, called the plans ‘wonderful news’.

She added: “Particularly the fact the units are going to be flexible and can accommodate families of different sizes.”

Council leader Tony Dignum said: “I think it’s fair to say we’re doing a lot more than most councils to provide accommodation of our own and avoid families possibly being split up in bed-and-breakfast accommodation.

“This shows our strong commitment to tackling the issues for people who are homeless.”

Cabinet members were told that the original plan had been to convert the property into four flats, with £10,000 set aside to pay to take the project to the planning stage.

The decision to demolish and rebuild means those costs will now be £40,000, with an extra £72,000 to finalise the design.

Members agreed to dip into the council’s £765,000 housing investment reserves to cover the extra costs.

In addition, an application for a grant of £510k-£765k will be submitted to Homes England.

The cabinet was assured that Homes England had indicated there was a ‘very good chance’ of a grant being given – and even if it wasn’t, the project ‘does stack up financially’.

The estimated total cost of the build was reported to be £2.1m, not including the £208,815 paid to buy the building.

Taking into account the grant and £510,000 of Section 106 contributions which will be requested from whichever contractor is selected to build the flats, the council expects to pay between £825k and £1.08m from its capital budget for the project.

If all goes to plan, building work is expected to start next Novmber.

Deputy leader Eileen Lintill described the project as ‘really vital’ and asked if there was any chance things could get under way sooner.

She was told that officers would investigate.