Plans for a new centre for young people who work in the racing industry is dividing opinion in Middleham.
A planning application has been submitted for ten bedsits, a gym, treatment room and living space at Mill House and West Hill House in the town.
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.
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.
So far more than 20 people and organisations have commented on the plans as part of the public consultation.
Around half support the plans while half object.
Among those raising issues was Middleham Town Council which said the proposal has caused significant concerns in the local community.
The concerns it raised in its formal response included the scale of the gym which it said was over-bearing in design and provide an unacceptable level of noise and disturbance to neighbours.
It said the centre would increase parking problems in the area and the the proposed rooms for hire would threaten the viability of the Key Centre.
It added: “With the proposed multi-occupancy hostel style accommodation for ten young people aged 16-25 years, we consider that the presence of welfare staff/warden on site is essential throughout the day and night to ensure the safety, well-being and protection of the young residents.”
Other concerns were raised about a water course that runs under the site.
But Middleham resident James Anderson was one of several who backed the plans.
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.”
The Racing Welfare 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.
Th application will be heard by a planning committee at Richmondshire District Council later this year.
To view the plans, click here.