Broadband outage fails to scupper go-ahead for Exeter homeless shelter to open all-year-round

Plans for an Exeter night shelter to open all-year-round were approved by city councillors – moments before a nationwide broadband outage ended their virtual meeting.

The authority’s own application for The Junction, in Magdalen Street, will also allow to to extend its remit to support rough sleepers.

Proposals were given the go-ahead last night (Monday).

The bid had been recommended for approval and seconded when the planning committee’s internet stream crashed.

Online problems were blamed on Virgin Media suffering nationwide broadband problems.

However, an Exeter City Council spokesman confirmed that, while the stream crashed, members had in fact managed to vote and approve the application.

The virtual meeting was then unable to continue and adjourned until next Monday.

Planning permission means the Exeter night shelter can open all-year-round and operate as a 14-bed shelter – with some daytime activities from April to the end of September.

The facility currently has permission to open from October to April.

Opening hours will be from 6pm to 9am, Mondays to Fridays, and from 6pm to noon on weekends and bank holidays.

During the daytime hours, the building can be used as an educational, training and community facility for homeless people in Exeter.

Local resident Nuala O’Farrell called for councillors to reject the plans and said: “The management scheme in the winter has not been followed.

“Therefore, if allowed, any issues will proliferate and become an all-year round problem.

“The antisocial behaviour and noise is continuous throughout winter.

“Almost daily, they congregate at the shelter before opening hours with shouting, arguments and foul language, and this is before the late arrivals are denied access and therefore go ballistic.

“There are many physical altercations and the police are called out at least once or twice a week, and this is just when they the issues escalate and the staff are unable to deal with them.

“The antisocial behaviour is difficult to overlook in winter but is at least temporary.

“But in spring and summer, the noise and antisocial behaviour when residents are trying to use their gardens and patios will make lives miserable.”

She added: “This should not be allowed. We have not complained as we understand it is temporary, but expecting residents to deal with it in the summer when it is amplified is unrealistic and unfair.”

Council leader Phil Bialyk said that he did not dismiss the concerns lightly, but he would be backing the recommending to support homeless people in Exeter.

Cllr Yolanda Henson added that the management plan had to be tightened up to help nearby residents, but that she would be supporting the application.

Cllr Michael Mitchell said that, while the issues over the management plan concerned him, he hoped extra resource could be put it to ensure harmony between centre users and  residents.

Cllr Greg Sheldon added: “It would be more of a stain on the city if we didn’t provide somewhere like this as people would have to be sleeping on the streets.”

Bid to open Exeter homeless shelter all-year-round on verge of go-ahead