A CONTROVERSIAL planning application to build a three-storey building to accommodate homeless people in Stourport has been recommended for approval.

The agenda for Tuesday's meeting of Wyre Forest District Council's planning committee has now been published, and includes the planning officer's recommendations to give the proposal the go-ahead.

Wyre Forest District Council, the applicant behind the plans, is seeking permission to erect 18 units to offer short-term accommodation to homeless and vulnerable people on the site of the temporary car park in Bridge Street.

The application has received a staggering 1,325 objections from members of the public, however the council planning officer said many of the responses "do not assist" the committee’s decision as some are "based on inappropriate prejudice against" homeless people.

The officer's report reads: "In the officer’s view, it is unacceptable that such opinions about people experiencing homelessness are held or advanced by some opponents to this application.

"It could breach the code of conduct if a councillor were to make such comments in the committee’s proceedings."

The report goes on to say: "Members of the committee are reminded that there are many reasons why individuals and families experience homelessness, including break up of relationship, loss of job or income - something that is likely to become more prevalent as a result of Covid-19 and domestic abuse.

"Many of the comments received regrettably seek to assign undesirable attributes to people experiencing homelessness when such attributes may be found in people who live in all communities across Wyre Forest."

A residents' action group set up in opposition to the plans, Save Stourport's Heritage (SSH), raised concerns over the proposed location of the development and its proximity to pubs and off-licences, however the council's planning officer has said these objections should be "given no weight".

SSH founder Dave Bishop previously told The Shuttle: "The issue is not about the people that would use this facility - we understand that homeless people need somewhere to live - it's about where the council is planning to put it.

"They're planning to place very vulnerable people within 150 yards of three arcades, two pubs and a cheap off licence - not to mention the impact it will have on Stourport's tourism. It just hasn't been thought through."

Objections have also been received from Stourport Town Council, Stourport Civic Society and Stourport Forward Amenity Group. The Canal and River Trust also raised concerns about the visual impact of the proposal on the historic canal basins.

However, local homeless charity Nightstop is backing the plans, describing the development as a "hugely valuable contribution to the network of support for people experiencing homelessness in Wyre Forest".

St Paul's, another homeless charity, is also supporting the proposal, and said suitable accommodation for the homeless is "in short supply and urgent needed".