CONTROVERSIAL plans to build a homeless shelter in the middle of a quiet residential area will be a test for three new councillors, it has been warned.

The ward of Brookvale & Kings Furlong elected three new public representatives after the town went to the polls last week - Conservatives Arun Mummalaneni and Sam Jeans and Labour’s Michael Howard-Sorrell.

The trio replace long-standing councillors Jack Cousens and Mike Westbrook, both formerly of Labour, who quit the party in 2019 before forming the Basingstoke & Deane Independents Group.

One of the biggest issues facing the ward is homeless charity Two Saints’ proposals to build a homeless shelter at 180 Culver Road.

Residents previously expressed their concerns about anti-social behaviour, drugs and litter resulting from the site.

A petition was launched, with one resident describing the proposals to the Gazette as a “sweet shop for drug dealers”.

Charity Two Saints, which would run the facility, has assured them that patrols would be in place, and has been carrying out resident consultation.

However, residents also expressed their unhappiness at the level support from their previous councillors, who whole-heartedly supported the proposal.

Outgoing councillor Jack Cousens said it would be a “big test of character” for the new elected members, writing to Twitter: “All candidates paid lip-service to tackling homelessness in the Borough, but none could say if they support/oppose the plans. Myself and Mike Westbrook supported it in the face of resident objection. BIG test of character for all 3 straight away.”

Cllr Michael Howard-Sorrell told The Gazette he saw it as a “done deal” but said if it came down to it, he would oppose it on behalf of the residents.

“From what I gather, it’s pretty much a done deal, I don’t think anything I can do is going to stop it going ahead. Neither do I necessarily want it to," he said.

“I am going to do everything that I can to bolster the existing agreement, and take it back to the residents. If at that point they are still unhappy, I would have to vote against it, that’s the job of a councillor."

Cllr Arun Mummalaneni said he would support the plans but would listen to residents, saying the Conservatives would do “whatever it takes” to keep homeless numbers low.

“My previous councillors all supported it, and the top level Conservatives also support it. One of the residents wrote to me in an email, and I made it very clear that our approach is to have no homeless people," he said.

He added: “At the same time, it’s not at the cost of the local residents. Their concerns have to be addressed."

Meanwhile Cllr Sam Jeans, who lives on Winchester Road, added that the topic is “close to her heart” and that she intends to be “incredibly vocal” as both a councillor and resident.

She said: “We support massively the homeless and those in need. However, it does need to be done sensitively and with local residents in mind. And being that I am absolutely a local resident, it will be close to my heart that we find a solution here that will keep everybody happy, that will keep everybody safe.”

Public consultation on the development is ongoing, with a planning application expected in the coming weeks.