Neighbours ‘shocked at what’s been going on’ at Worthing emergency accommodation property

A planning appeal was lodged against Worthing Borough Council after it took too long to make a decision regarding a ‘guest house’ but councillors say they would have objected to the plans.

Friday, 24th September 2021, 12:25 pm
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Castles Guest House at 6 Windsor Road applied for a ‘lawful development certificate’ back in August 2020, which it says would allow it to continue providing emergency temporary accommodation.

During a meeting on Wednesday (September 22) members of the council’s planning committee were asked if they would have approved the application at the time, to help WBC defend the appeal.

But, after hearing from both the owner of 6 Windsor Road and nearby residents, councillors said they would not have allowed the lawful development certificate.

The Castles Guest House owner claimed that the premises had been used to provide emergency accommodation for ‘at least ten years’ and therefore the application should have been allowed.

But gaps in booking records cast uncertainty over the number of rooms used for temporary accommodation and whether this was the sole purpose of the premises.

Officers said: “Although ‘tenancies’ have varied in length from one night to more than two years, it is clear that the accommodation has not been solely for short term or nightly accommodation.”

In addition, representations made by members of the public cast further doubt on the property’s history.

One speaker, who says she lives directly opposite 6 Windsor Road, said: “I have worked as an intensive care nurse so I am not easily shocked. But I have been since I’ve seen what’s been going on in the house.

“They clearly have drug, alcohol and mental health issues.

“Up until 2019, as far as I can see, it was run as a bed and breakfast. Since it has been taken over there’s no one supervising.”

She says the rotunda at the end of the road, which was boarded up, gained the nickname of ‘the crack shack’.

She added: “In my opinion you shouldn’t have so many vulnerable people living in the house – This isn’t the right thing to do for this property.”

Another Windsor Road resident said the ‘guest house’ had a ‘daily impact’ on her life with arrests taking place, noise at night and cannabis smoke.

The owner said ‘no tourists or traditional guests would actually stay’ adding: “It is our firm belief this use [as emergency accommodation] has existed in excess of ten years.”

He urged the committee to ‘consider the implications’ for current and future residents of 6 Windsor Road.

Records show that Castles Guest House has been used by Adur and Worthing Councils as well as Brighton and Hove City Council to provide emergency temporary accommodation in the past, but this was not enough to convince the planning committee.

Kevin Jenkins (Con, Gaisford) said: “I haven’t seen a great deal of clarity over its use.”

He asked the owner why alterations to the property had been made in 2020 if it was already being used for emergency accommodation.

The owner claimed it was to improve the accommodation and believed permission wasn’t required. But he says the planning officer then wrote to say planning was required and the council recommended a lawful development certificate be sought.

The owner says they ‘made every effort’ to comply with the council and has ‘upgraded the property’ to make a ‘decent home for residents’.

They accepted that Windsor Road residents had been affected, but said: “We truly do our best to support them [tenants] and avoid evictions, which only serve to move the problem or individual somewhere else.”

Jim Deen (Lab, Central) said: “This needs to be sorted through a proper process.

“We’re all aware of what’s been going on there and I’m very grateful to residents for bringing their stories to us.”

A final decision now lies with the planning inspectorate