A COUNCILLOR has called on Wyre Forest District Council to consider utilising Kidderminster's derelict Crown House building - instead of knocking it down - to alleviate the region's homeless problem.

The call comes after Wyre Forest was identified as having the 5th highest level of homelessness in the West Midlands, according to figures released by housing charity Shelter last week.

According to the report, there are 211 people in Wyre Forest in temporary accommodation, with another four people sleeping on the streets. That means one in every 468 people in the district are homeless.

Meanwhile, Wyre Forest District Council continues its negotiations with Crown House tenants Telereal Trillium to knock the eyesore building down - a decision Cllr John Aston says is a waste of time and money.

Independent Cllr Aston said: "The council would be better off investing money to have the building done up and made to look respectable, rather than let it stand there rotting.

"You could have 50 to 100 units for people to live in on that site, which would get a lot of people off the streets.

"That building will never come down. It will be there for the next 20 years if someone doesn't do something. It needs someone to do something with it."

But councillors from the district's other political groups insist the eight-storey building must be torn down before the site is redeveloped.

Labour leader Cllr Nigel Knowles said: "The council should have taken bold steps a year ago to get Telereal to fund the demolition of the Crown House.

"I would still support that now but if they refuse, the council needs to take action, even if that means funding the demolition ourselves. Then the site can be redeveloped with housing or something else."

Fran Oborski, leader of Wyre Forest Liberal Democrats, added: "It would cost hundreds of thousands to redevelop the building as it is. It's just not practical. It needs to be demolished."

Cllr Ian Hardman, cabinet member for housing, said: "Wyre Forest District Council has been clear in its commitment to see Crown House demolished and we are bitterly disappointed that Telereal Trillium pulled out of the deal we had agreed.

"We will nevertheless maintain a dialogue with Telereal Trillium in an effort to resurrect the agreement, but not at any cost.

“In the meantime Telereal Trillium remain as tenants and the council is not in a position to determine how they use the building.

“Crown House has stood empty for a number of years. As it was last used for offices it is impossible to say whether it is capable of being converted cost-effectively to support residential occupation.

“We would much prefer to see more quality supported housing, such as our facility in New Street, Stourport, rather than re-house homeless people in a substandard former office building in the centre of town.”