People living near a former hotel fear council planners will push through an application to turn it into a hostel for homeless families.

Brighton and Hove City Council's housing department moved homeless people into the former St Catherine's Lodge Hotel in Hove last year even though planning permission had not been granted.

Plans have been submitted to continue using the building as a temporary hostel.

Resident Stephen Leonard, of Osborne Villas, insisted most people in the area did not want the hostel to continue operating but believed permission would be granted regardless.

He said: "Temporary permission lets the council off the hook and will make it easier for them to renew it later.

"The concern among residents it that the whole process is going to be a whitewash."

The unapproved change of use occurred after the premises were sold to London-based firm Top Class Investments in October.

The housing department was so keen to ease pressure on its waiting lists it readily accepted an offer by the new owners to block-book the entire building and move in 51 homeless families.

Planning officers only discovered the council had broken its own rules following an inquiry by The Argus.

They demanded the owners submit retrospective permission "within days" but it took more than six weeks before a planning application was received.

A period of public consultation will begin once the application is formally registered by the city council early next week.

Letters will be sent to residents in the area who will have 21 days to submit any comments or objections.

A council spokeswoman said: "The applicants have applied for temporary change of use, which usually means one year. The length of permission will be among the things considered after public consultation."

A decision on the future of the premises is not expected to be made until March at the earliest.

Agents for Top Class Investments said they had been instructed not to make any comment.