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Council snaps up town centre hostel for £1

Thursday, 15 February 2024 08:30

By Guy Henderson, local democracy reporter

The Leonard Stocks Centre in Torquay (Image: Google Street View)

Townhouse to become homeless hub

Torbay Council has bought a prominent three-storey Torquay town centre building for just ONE POUND.

But it has pledged that it will continue to cater for some of the most vulnerable people in the bay.

The Langley Housing Trust, a nationwide Christian charity which works with people with convictions, says the Leonard Stocks Centre in Factory Row is no longer part of its ‘core business’, so the council can have it for £1.

Torbay took over the management of the centre a year ago, and will now take full ownership.

The Leonard Stocks Centre is a homeless hostel which has 25 beds for vulnerable homeless adults with complex mental, physical and social needs. It first opened in 1991 and was redeveloped in 2009.

Cllr Nick Bye (Con, Wellswood) said Torbay’s levels of homelessness were higher than the national average, and up to 35 people slept rough on its streets at night.

And he added: “Since the start of 2023, seven people known to Torbay Council have died while rough-sleeping. The life expectancy of a homeless person is just 47 years.

“Leonard Stocks is Torbay’s only short-term homeless hostel, and this seems absolutely the right thing to do. The need that it meets is absolutely crucial.

“How we look after the most vulnerable in our community is how we should be judged.”

Cllr Chris Lewis (Con, Preston) said that under the council’s management in the past year, the average length of a stay at the centre had dropped from 506 days to 204.

“It’s better for the clients and better for Torbay Council,” he said. “It is also vital going forward that we have control of the site.

“There is also the major concern that if we didn’t buy it, another authority could buy it for £1 and we could lose control of it. Then we could have residents who are not from Torbay but from elsewhere in the country.

“We cannot afford to take that risk.”

Cllr Adam Billings (Con, Churston with Galmpton) said it was a rare opportunity to buy a prominent building for £1 when its commercial value was much greater. He said: “I appreciate that there is a need to continue to run the centre in its current form for a period, but at the end of that period – we have bought a building for £1.”

But Cllr Lewis stressed: “We have no plans to develop that building.”

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