Town ‘still a dumping ground for undesirables’

CONCERNS have been raised that some bed-and-breakfasts in Whitley Bay are being used as a “dumping ground” for undesirable elements from elsewhere in the north east.

North Tyneside Council is being called on by one of its ward councillors for the town, Michael McIntyre, to use additional planning powers to tackle the problem.

He says the move could help prevent agencies such as the probation service and other councils from kicking troublemakers out of their home towns and relocating them to Whitley Bay.

Coun McIntyre said: “I know since I last raised this issue that the council has met with a number of agencies, including the police, in an attempt to work on a voluntary basis with the probation service and other local authorities to discourage them from sending people from their areas to B&Bs in Whitley Bay.

“Unfortunately, it appears the voluntary agreement is not being kept by some, and Whitley Bay is still experiencing large numbers of undesirable people being housed in the town centre.

“As a result, incidents of theft, burglary and harassment are a constant concern of local residents.

“I am asking the council to take up further discretionary powers through the planning process to licence small houses in multiple occupancy (HMOs).

“This would give the council greater control over a number of smaller properties used as HMOs.

“The greater the council’s planning enforcement powers are, the more easily we will be able to take action to stop Whitley Bay being used as a dumping ground for other councils’ unwanted residents.”

Borough mayor Linda Arkley said: “I’d like to reassure residents that we are taking this issue very seriously, working proactively with partners to ensure Whitley Bay remains a safe and family-friendly place to live and visit.

“We are continuing our ongoing work with the police, other councils and voluntary organisations to reduce placements in the area and improve the way agencies use B&B accommodation in Whitley Bay.

“We are currently refreshing our approach to the HMO licensing that Coun McIntyre refers to.”

A new post, funded by the police, has been created in a bid to tackle the problem by making risk assessments prior to placements and working with landlords to set new standards of practice.

Inspector Jim Gray, of Whitley Bay’s neighbourhood policing team, said: “We have voiced concerns about the number of people, some from very challenging backgrounds, who are being placed in Whitley Bay in temporary accommodation.

“We believe the appointment of a police grant-funded member of staff will play a key role in enabling all partners to work together more productively on this issue.

“They will help to develop long-term solutions which both minimise the risks of any such temporary placements and benefit the community.

“People should be reassured that the neighbourhood policing team closely monitors this and works with partners to address any issues.”