St Austell hostel plan is withdrawn after public opposition
THE charity behind contentious plans to convert a former bed-and-breakfast in St Austell into a supported hostel for homeless people has withdrawn the proposal at the 11th hour.
Cosgarne Hall Limited (CHL) had applied to Cornwall Council to turn Crossways on Cromwell Road into 'move-on' accommodation.
It had planned to turn the former five-bedroom guesthouse into a seven-bedroom hostel for people with a history of drug and alcohol misuse, the homeless and those with mental health problems and learning difficulties.
CHL said purchasing the building would have allowed it to provide much-needed supported 'move-on' accommodation to these groups.
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Ultimately, success would have meant it could take more people off the streets of St Austell and into Cosgarne Hall in Truro Road for "the start of their journey towards independent living".
However, the charity's plan was greeted with anger and fear by residents living nearby and parents and representatives of Mount Charles School, which is close to the proposed hostel site.
CHL already provides accommodation for homeless people at Cosgarne Hall, at Greenaway House on Victoria Road and at 22 Bodmin Road, and had hoped to add Crossways to that provision.
Nearly 60 comments were submitted to Cornwall Council by townsfolk worried that approving the facility could bring problems with antisocial behaviour.
The opposition was so fierce that CHL decided to ditch its proposal just hours before St Austell Town Council's planning committee was due to discuss it, ahead of Cornwall Council's decision.
John Coventry, founder of Cosgarne Hall, said the overwhelming opposition was the deciding factor in the trustees' withdrawal of the planning application.
"Of course I'm disappointed," he said. "I believe that, had the planning application been allowed to go forward, then consent would have been forthcoming.
"However, when you work within a community and that community expresses its views very strongly, then you have to be prepared to listen and you have to respect those views, even if you don't happen to agree with them."
He said the term 'hostel' – language used with the planning system – had given the wrong impression of what the charity was trying to achieve.
"The public thought we planned to open another Cosgarne Hall," he said, which had not been the intention.
"We depend on the community in our work," said Mr Coventry.
"We feel it's a partnership and if one of those partners gets very upset we don't go blindly on."
Next time, he said, he hoped CHL would be able to gain community support.
Until another site was found the charity would continue to find private or council-run accommodation for clients ready to move on.
Town councillor Gary King, representing the Mount Charles ward, said: "The concerns of the residents have been addressed admirably by Cosgarne Hall by withdrawing the application."