Extension of Old Windsor Probation Hostel to continue as Inspector ‘sympathizes’ with locals
Controversial hostel expansion plans have been approved despite local fears. A town planning inspector has overturned the decision to refuse the expansion of the Old Windsor probation centre.
The 25-bed Manor Lodge Probation Hostel has been in use since 1967 to house convicted felons who come from licensed national prisons. And the Department of Justice now wants to expand the service by demolishing two garages in Straight Road, Old Windsor, to provide three bedrooms, bike storage, an air-source heat pump and solar panels.
Councilors on the Royal Borough’s Development Management Committee last July rebelled against officers’ recommendations to approve the project and narrowly rejected it over fears of public safety and anti-social behaviour. Residents of Old Windsor said they felt ‘intimidated’, after witnessing occupants of the Manor Lodge ‘drinking alcohol outside their homes, rowdy behavior, public urination and littering’.
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The Justice Department then appealed, saying three more beds would not lead to a significant increase in crime and that offenders would be closely monitored – some being fitted with electronic surveillance beacons. He also said Thames Valley Police did not object to the scheme when consulted and that the department desperately needed to increase its bed capacity in probation homes nationwide in order to reduce the number of people placed in hotel rooms.
Planning Inspector James Blackwell said he “sympathizes” with local concerns but ultimately agreed with the Justice Department that the extra beds will not significantly increase crime in the area. He also said that offenders are managed in accordance with regulations and that there are procedures in place if an individual has a negative impact on the community.
He wrote: “The proposed development would help meet the Government’s need for additional PAs. [approved premises] sleeping spaces. “Furthermore, I am confident that the modest increase in the number of beds would not materially affect safety, or the perceived safety of the local area, particularly with respect to crime, disorder and anti-social behavior.”