RESIDENTS and businesses have welcomed the impending closure of a homeless hostel in the heart of a historic square - but have concerns about what will replace it.

The West Pier Project hostel will close later this year in Regency Square, Brighton, as the council-managed facility moves elsewhere in the city.

Critics of the facility have said the location, in one of the key tourist sites and ringed by more than a dozen hotels and B&Bs, is unsuitable for a service caring for more than 40 vulnerable residents.

But they are concerned that the buildings will now remain in use as a hostel for ex-servicemen.

Over the last 15 years, hotel owners have said their guests have endured sleepless nights from anti-social behaviour they claim is being carried out by West Pier Project residents.

They say the situation has become too much for many of their guests who have checked out rather than put up with the disruption.

With the lease on the seafront building expiring and costs set to substantially rise at the end of this year, Brighton and Hove City Council moved part of the service to a different location.

Space for 25 residents will be found at a new hostel in Dyke Road while the remaining 16 clients will be transferred to other hostels in the city.

All of the facility’s current 18 members of staff will move to the new location.

The impending move has been greeted with satisfaction from residents and hoteliers.

But there is concern that the property, also known as Keehan's Hotel, will now to be used as a hostel for ex-servicemen.

Residents and members of the Regency Square Area Society told The Argus they were worried about the new use and said they favoured the buildings being used as flats, hotels or hostels for families.

A Brighton and Hove City Council spokesman said: "This change is taking place as part of the remodelling of the service which seeks to improve outcomes for service users.

“The decision was taken because the lease on the building was coming to an end and leasing costs were increasing.

“We also need to transfer the service to a building which is more suited to the service users needs, the layout of the building is not providing the best environment for the individuals who live there.

“The council does not own the buildings.

“We are working with the proprietor to discuss the future use of the building however Brighton and Hove City Council has no control over the outcome.”

A spokesman for Keehan's Hotel confirmed that up to a third of residents at the new hostel would be ex-servicemen and that their needs would be treated very "sensitively".


GUESTS staying at any one of a dozen guesthouses and hotels in Regency Square can take in a number of attractive sights, which makes the area a hotspot for tourists.

First there is the historic square itself with its Regency design that has made Brighton a famed seaside town around the world.

Peering beyond the green square looms the i360, the 21st century tourism attraction of bolt upright steel cans, and very soon a glass doughnut to look out from.

A little Further in the distance, guests can enjoy the skeletal spectre of the burnt-out West Pier, which can’t help but fail to bring out a little bit of nostalgia and sadness in all who see the grand old lady standing defiantly in the sea.

But Hotel owners in the square say that all too often a different view greets their guests: n Flashing blue lights of fire engines, police cars and ambulances in the middle of the night.

n Men being picked up in the square for a spin round the block by their drug dealers.

n Homeless men gathered on hotel steps begging for money.

Daniel Willard opened the Royal Pavilion Townhouse Hotel in May last year.

He said he has complained at length to Brighton and Hove City Council about disruption and has recorded about 140 incidents.

The situation got so bad for Mr Willard that he threatened to stop paying council tax and business rates because of the disruption the council-managed site was causing him.

He said many customers have cancelled their stays as a result.

He said: “There have been times when up to eight hostel residents have gathered on the steps next to my entrance and are approaching my guests for money.

“I simply can’t run a business like that.”

Regency Square resident Duncan Cameron agreed that the West Pier Project had a considerable and disruptive impact on residents.

He said: “It was just completely unsuitable to have a huge hostel like that for people with drug, drink and mental health problems all together with nothing to do.”

The building is now to be used as a hostel for ex-servicemen.

While sympathetic to the good intentions of such an enterprise, businesses have said what they perceive as the limited success of the West Pier Project should indicate that it is not a suitable location for such a project.

Mr Willard said: “I’m not sure that replacing the homeless hostel with one for ex-servicemen is a good idea either.

“I’m only too aware that our prisons are full of ex-servicemen who struggle to adapt back into civilian life and suffer from trauma, alcoholism and drug abuse.

“It seems we will simply be swapping one group of people with high mental health needs with another.”

As a former prison officer, Mr Willard said he had every sympathy with the situation but would not welcome such a facility on his doorstep.

He said: “I am certainly not a NIMBY. I used to work in Lewes Prison in the psychiatric unit.

“But I don’t believe they can get that level of support there and they are left to fend for themselves.”

A council spokesman said: “The West Pier Project operates a community responsibility protocol which is aimed to address any impact the service may potentially have on local residents and businesses and has worked closely with the Community Safety Team and Neighbourhood Policing Team in order to monitor this issue.

“Despite this monitoring, no resident at the project has, to date, presented with behaviour in the local area which has proved sufficient grounds for an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) being issued.

“The West Pier Project can confirm that any residents who have presented with behaviour which could potentially result in an ASBO proceedings being undertaken, had it persisted would be issued notice to leave the project before this occurred on the grounds of breaching their licence agreement, which sets out the boundaries of acceptable behaviour within the project and in the community.”