Controversial plans for a new centre for young people who work in the racing industry will go before councillors this week.
A planning application for ten bedsits, a gym, treatment room and living space at Mill House and West Hill House in Middleham will be recommended for approval when district councillors meet on Wednesday.
The plans have been submitted by charity Racing Welfare with the aim of providing managed bedsit accommodation, particularly for the youngest racing apprentices, who may be working away from home for the first time.
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The project is being supported by the Jessica Bethell Foundation, a charity set up by racehorse trainer James Bethell and wife Sally following the tragic death of their daughter Jessica from meningitis in 2012.
The centre would include welfare, social, physical, medical and practical facilities, including areas for study and a gym and fitness area.
Documents submitted with the planning application state that University of Cambridge research for Racing Welfare found that there was generally a lack of suitable housing for single young people working within the industry.
It states that the racing industry is relatively unusual in that very young people often have to migrate for employment in many cases moving away from family and friends and support networks to live independently for the first time.
The report suggest that a good model for shared housing for single young people working in the industry could be a hostel type unit with self-contained en-suite bedrooms and some communal areas as well.
The plans, originally submitted in January, have been changed following feedback from the consultation.
However, Middleham Town Council says it believes the plans should still be refused.
The council says it has “every sympathy with, and support the aims of, the Jessica Bethell Foundation and are also strongly supportive of the work of Racing Welfare, recognising the need for more affordable and supported accommodation in
Middleham for young people starting out on their careers in racing”.
However, it adds: ” As it stands, an unwarranted level of harm would be done to a listed building and its setting within Middleham Conservation Area and an unacceptable level of detriment would be inflicted on neighbours. The balance is still not right.
“Overall Middleham Town Council considers that this site, its listed building and surroundings are inappropriate for the proposed development and that a different site for purpose built accommodation together with use of the available spare capacity within the nearby Middleham Key Centre would be a better and more cost-effective alternative for all parties.”
A number of other residents have raised objects to the scheme while others have backed the plans, including Middleham resident James Anderson.
He said: “We are in support of this scheme which is long overdue in Middleham and along with affordable accommodation which is badly needed for 16 to 21 year old racing staff starting out in the industry.
“This will enable Racing Welfare and the town of Middleham to assist in the welfare of the racing staff and retirees in the area.”
Another Middleham resident Gail Burton-Pye added: “Currently young people working in the racing industry in and around Middleham have very limited accommodation options.
“Rental prices are unaffordable and there are very few properties on the market to rent due to the increasing number of holiday cottages/homes in the area.”
To view the plans, click here.