AN empty office building in Bradford City centre can be converted into temporary housing for the homeless and those in need of short term accommodation.

Plans to convert the former Virgo Home Improvements building have been approved by Bradford Council, with officers admitting there is a “rising need” for such accommodation in the city.

Bernstein Developments submitted plans to convert Virgo House, on Caledonia Street, from offices to a complex of 26 single bedsits and four double bedsits.

The application said the development would create “much needed temporary residential accommodation and reduce demand of the private bed and breakfast accommodation sector in the Bradford area.”

Virgo Home Improvements shut down in July 2018, with all 11 of its staff made redundant. This office building, a short distance from Wakefield Road, has been empty ever since.

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Under the new plans, the building will be converted to create bedsits, communal bathroom areas and shared kitchen and dining areas. There will also be new windows, doors and fire escapes added to the building.

When the plans were submitted, the company pointed out the need for such accommodation in Bradford, and how many homeless or people at risk of homelessness were having to be housed in bed and breakfast accommodation. It said: “In the 2017-18 financial year 6,710 nights of bed and breakfast accommodation for temporary housing was needed in the Bradford district. Last year this jumped to 9,403 nights.”

The plans were approved last week, with officers saying: “It is acknowledged that there is a rising need for this type of accommodation which provides temporary housing for those in need, the re-development of disused sites and buildings is also encouraged in both Council and national policy. The proposal is not considered harmful to visual amenity, residential amenity or highway safety and is therefore considered to comply with the relevant planning policies.”

The approval came despite concerns being raised by West Yorkshire Police about the type of accommodation, houses in multiple occupation or HMOs, being proposed. The police had written to the Council to say: “West Yorkshire Police do have reservations regarding this type of accommodation. We do have HMO’s which suffer from repeat crimes for theft, burglary and anti-social behaviour problems. The nature being that strangers share accommodation, some of which are vulnerable adults who may require professional help or emotional support, and with the lack of defensible space and the use of shared amenities such as kitchen and bathroom and in some cases poor management of the building and lack of security measures can create more opportunities for crime and anti social behaviour problems.

“Whilst we appreciate that there is a requirement for cost effective accommodation to rent, it would be highly desirable if each room could have its own bathroom and kitchen/cooking facilities which at least creates a self-contained studio which gives more defensible space for each resident and negates the need for shared amenities.”