Councillors have backed plans in principle to place up to five shipping containers on land off Holt Road to the rear of ASDA for use as accommodation for homeless people.
Planning permission was sought to change to the use of land to the rear of the Ty Nos homeless shelter on Holt Road to enable the siting of up to four converted shipping containers for use as short to medium term accommodation for homeless people.
Further permission was sought to for an additional container to be used for emergency cold weather accommodation and additional support services.
Councillors backed the proposals, which are not formally accepted as of yet, however they said they were happy with the outline idea and have delegated the decision to the relevant council officer pending ongoing consultation period subject to no new significant issues being raised, and the colour of the units is acceptable.
The structures consist of a second hand shipping container which has been sourced by a charity and fully fitted out internally with a double bedroom, shower room and WC, kitchen and living area.
Windows are cut into the structure to serve the rooms and floor to ceiling glazed doors installed where the solid doors of the container once were.
Last night’s planning meeting was given the background to the plans, with Wrexham County Borough Council’s Supporting People successfully bidding for money from Welsh Government to help combat homelessness. Using evidence from the rough sleeper count and the current homelessness situation in Wrexham, the bid lent itself to looking for alternatives to current bricks and mortar buildings to provide accommodation and shelter to homeless people.
The application was slightly unusual for the committee as it was from the Council itself, with the meeting told the containers would be run ‘on very strict licence basis, so won’t cause any issue in locality’.
The additional unit would ‘only be used in emergency cases’ with last week’s deep freeze being cited as an example scenario.
The council officer told the meeting the units would be ‘clearly strictly managed by council’ adding, ‘if there were any problems arising, the situation can be regulated effectively.’
Councillors were not asked to decide on the night to approve or refuse permission as is normal, rather delegate the decision to the officer as the application had been submitted quickly and the consultation period would not expire for some time.
The plans were put forward in a temporary nature to ‘ensure it is kept to a reasonable standard’, and allow ‘opportunity to evaluate the potential any anti social behaviour or issues’.
A condition had been added that would mean any provision on the site would cease by 30th June 2021, however that artificial time limit ‘did not mean we would not give permanent consent’.
Cllr David Kelly said it was ‘hard to call’ and preferred a yearly review, saying that the provision was based off current need. “Once you have got the provision, you are serving a need that isn’t necessary there, but as it is there , they come from other areas.”
Cllr Paul Jones said he was satisfied the visual impact and noise issues appeared to be mostly addressed, but asked a wider question on if the plans ‘set a precedent’ and if Wrexham ‘would deal with the homeless issue in this way going forward’.
That debate was outside the scope of the meeting, but Cllr Pemberton said: “To say it is needed is an understatement. It is a stop gap situation.”
Cllr Andy Williams queried how sewerage would be dealt with and if there was CCTV in place, with the officer confirming CCTV was in the plans and ‘drainage as a static caravan’.
Cllr Paul Roberts queried why there was no direct management link with Ty Nos, saying it struck him as ‘unusual’. The officer told him that it was to be controlled separately, and in effect people living there would be treated as tenants of Wrexham Council.
Cllr Roberts went on to query what would happen ‘if something goes wrong’, with the reply being that issues would be dealt with in the same way as if they were in permanent council accommodation.
Cllr Graham Rogers voiced his concern over the ‘cleanliness of the place’ as he could ‘imagine the conditions they leave’. The Chair, Cllr Morris, reassured him by pointing out those tenants would have to ‘earn the right to have one of these, so it is down to them as individuals’.
The proposals passed unanimously.