Unpopular homeless hostel in Wilton Road, Colliers Wood, could be expanded and memorial demolished
A chapel built by one of Merton's most eminent former residents in honour of his son could be demolished to almost double the capacity of an unpopular homeless hostel.
Neighbours to the six bedroom terraced home on the quiet residential Wilton Road, Colliers Wood, have reacted with horror to plans to expand the service, which they say already blights their lives.
Currently catering for up to nine young homeless people through five rooms, the change would allow 10 more bedrooms, to create a 15 person capacity in a two-storey side extension and a rear extension.
The plans include allowing the hostel to be used by adults as well as minors.
More than 80 letters of objection have been lodged against the plans which would see a small chapel built in memory of 27-year-old Stanford Burke Downing demolished.
It is believed Stanford died in a period between the two world wars.
An English heritage blue plaque could be all that is left in memory of Stanford's father Henry, a well-known architect responsible for the former Pelham School, Southey Road, Wimbledon - now flats.
He died in 1947 when living at the property.
A letter of objection signed by dozens of residents, said: "Neighbours have mentioned about the smell of cannabis smoke coming from the hostel. They have also regularly notified Merton Action for Single Homeless about loud music etc. but the problem persists.
"I believe it is unfair and unreasonable for the immediate neighbours to accept such an extension."
The council-owned hostel is run by SPEAR Housing Association, a charity that works with vulnerable and homeless people.
A £500,000 refurbishment was approved by the council in November last year that paved the way for the potential development.
Planning documents state there is the need for the facility to be extended because of the impending closure of a scheme for young single homeless people in Hartfield Road, Wimbledon, this Friday.
Chairman of the Colliers Wood Residents’ Association Kevin Godding said: "We have no problem with young people living in the hostel and no objection to it being expanded.
"What we object to is the council’s decision to change the use of it.
"It could be used for anyone - ex-offenders, anyone."
Planning documents state the chapel has not been well maintained and the council’s conservation officer confirms it is ‘not worthy of preservation.’
Plans also suggest a smoking shelter in the back garden will mitigate any anti-social behaviour arising from groups of young people gathering outside the house.
Merton Council’s cabinet member for community and culture, Councillor Nick Draper said: "We have a duty to consider the needs of all our residents, including those who come to us needing a roof over their head for a few weeks until they find a more permanent home.
"We appreciate that some local residents have concerns and we would like to reassure them that we work closely with SPEAR to ensure the hostel, as it currently is, works well in the community."
The application, due to be discussed at planning committee on Thursday, March 27 is recommended for approval, subject to conditions.
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