The council’s planning committee on Thursday voted to approve the development of the women and children’s accommodation and support services building in Newby, despite objections from locals and nearby residents.
The application was submitted by Beyond Housing which operates across the Redcar and Cleveland and North Yorkshire areas.
Objections to the development ranged from concerns about congested traffic, harm to the natural environment, sound pollution, and the safety and well-being of elderly residents who live nearby.
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However, North Yorkshire Police expressed no concerns about the safety of the public or risk of crime, and commended the efforts of the applicant to reach high standards of security.
A report on the project’s impact on biodiversity found that while “no irreplaceable habitats” were present within the proposed site “losses of medium distinctiveness area habitats (woodland and shrub) are not directly compensated for.”
Addressing the committee on behalf of her 97-year-old mother who lives nearby, Susan Cooper told councillors: “There has been a total lack of concern for the safety and mental health of the residents.
“Please think of the lives and mental health you’re about to damage. No-one denies the need for a domestic violence shelter, but please, put it in a more suitable location.”
The council officer who presented the report on the application said he recognised the concerns of residents, but added that fears about crime “have to be backed by clear evidence”.
“As council officers, we found no evidence, nor have we been presented with any evidence to suggest [it would pose a risk of crime] and the police have commended the planned safety precautions.”
He added that it was a “sustainable setting” and the location was “entirely appropriate” to the use of the building.
Search for location
In November 2014 an application for 10 self-contained units of accommodation and support services for women and children in the same location was approved by the council with certain conditions.
However, it did not go ahead at the time and there has been a search for alternative locations to the one now being developed.
Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Bill Chatt said: “Most residents understand we need this kind of place, but the security of residents needs to be maintained. I think it’s a great development, just in the wrong place.”
Cllr Jane Mortimer responded by saying there had been a “similar facility in Scarborough centre some years ago, but it was unfit for the purpose”, adding there was little to no security at the old location.
Cllr Mortimer added that despite a lengthy search, no suitable alternative locations had been suggested or found.
The council’s report also stated that the applicant’s experience of “managing a similar scheme in Redcar over the past 10 years has shown that nuisance and community safety concerns for residents living in close proximity to the scheme are extremely rare, even with the location being in the public domain.”
The project’s impact on the natural environment and the use of the road leading to the site came up several times during the public consultation.
One objection received during the consultation reads: “The area that is being built is a woodland and is home to a wide variety of wildlife. In addition, there are more than 200 trees and shrubs which will all be destroyed by this new development.”
Another noted: “The location is highly unsuitable. Access for service and emergency vehicles is down a narrow street that is frequently reduced to a single lane by cars parked.”
The issue of vehicular access was also raised by councillors who proposed setting a condition that the applicant must ensure the road is kept free of mud left by trucks, as well as being free of other obstructions.
However, councillors were told that as roads are subject to the Highway Authority’s jurisdiction, they could not force contractors to abide by such a condition. Instead, it was agreed that the Highway Authority would be asked to “keep an eye” on the road and the matter would be added to a non-binding informative document.
Majority in favour of the proposal
Speaking to The Scarborough News before the meeting, Cllr Hazel Lynskey, who represents the Scalby ward, said: “If I had been there I would have voted in favour. Domestic abuse has increased by over 30% in the lockdown. It can happen to anyone, there is no special category.
“Some of the comments from other councillors and the public are so alarming. When Joseph Rowntree began building homes they were for people who needed help.”
When moved to a vote, the council’s planning committee voted, by a majority, in favour of approving the project in its current location, subject to certain conditions.
However, the matter will likely be further discussed at next month’s full council meeting.