SERIOUS concerns have been raised about plans for a new homeless shelter, which opened without planning permission.

Charles Willis, Labour councillor for Westborough, said residents are objecting to the controversial plans to change a shop in London Road, Westcliff into the shelter for the community group Off The Streets.

The group took the decision to open without a change of use being agreed by Southend Council.

The Labour councillor has posted a leaflet through the doors of residents which seem to encourage them to object to the plans, but he claims the leaflets are merely representing the views of concerned residents.

He said: “I knocked on every door in Beedell Avenue, off London Road, and the overwhelming response was negative.

“The response from the residents was that we need better facilities for homeless people but that this is not the place for it.

“Residents are concerned about antisocial behaviour such as drug taking and people using car park areas as toilets.

“I am not against homeless shelters but we need to listen to the residents.

“I am confused about the way it has been done and feel it was done in secret and would encourage the group to speak with councillors and residents.

“There are proper processes to go through and you can’t just open something without permission because there is a need there.”

Kirsty Louise, 29, founder of Off The Streets, said people need to give it a chance.

She said: “There was already an issue with homelessness in the area and now we are being blamed for everything.

“We could have knocked on doors before we opened but I didn’t think it would go down well so we decided to open quietly so we can get on and help the problem.

“We have CCTV to show the people we are helping are not causing issues with antisocial behaviour.

“We want to encourage people to comment either way and not just encourage people to object.

“We have had plenty of support in the community from residents and businesses.”