A plan to turn a former Haslingden pub into a hostel for homeless people has been approved by councillors.

Applicant Usma Rehman of Molesworth Street, Rochdale, has been given permission to change the use of the former Commercial Hotel on Manchester Street.

He is working with architect Steve Jackson of Architech Design Solutions in Rossendale.

Mr Rehman’s application said the hostel will be for Rossendale people, will work with a local charity and also offer a food bank.

However, a number of objections were raised by Haslingden businesses.

Nish Vasant, clinical director of Fresh Hearing, wrote: “This proposal leaves us in a very worrying situation regarding the future of the business, which is opposite the Commercial Hotel. As much as we support help for the homeless, we strongly feel a facility of this kind in the middle of a small town centre will have an extremely negative impact.

“The majority of our clients are elderly and vulnerable, many of whom attend their appointments alone. As a business owner, I am very much of the opinion that should the proposed plans go ahead we will have no other option but to move our premises away from Haslingden, which will then ultimately hinder patients.

“After discussing this with some customers, we strongly believe that not only will they find the area intimidating, as the likelihood is that the residents will be hanging around on the street outside, the idea will also deter some of our customers from attending appointments.”

Mr Vasant’s letter added: “The ambiguity of the proposal for the ‘hostel for homeless people’ is also a concern. It is perhaps deliberately vague in its definition of ‘homeless people’. Is it those who have lost their homes due to financial problems? Refugees? Those with substance abuse problems? Or all of the above?”

“As a small local business, we rely heavily on word-of-mouth recommendations to attract new customers. Unfortunately, Deardengate has already suffered with multiple shop closures, which has impacted the appearance of the high street.”

And Mark Thomson wrote: “I would like to object to this. I have a business opposite. I actually don’t think it will be used for the intended use and [will end] up a refugee hostel. Haslingden is already struggling and needs investment. As soon as potential business finds out about the centre, they may take the business elsewhere.”

However, a statement for the applicant to Rossendale Council said: “The building was sold due to the owner's retirement plans. The previous licence-holder of the Commercial Hotel had warnings from police due to anti-social behaviour and regular violent incidents at the pub. We hope the new plans will eliminate all anti-social behaviour.

“The property will solely be used to accommodate residents from Rossendale and operated by a community interest company (CIC). Currently there are no facilities in the borough and residents facing homelessness are transferred out of the borough. Having a local facility with an experienced team will only benefit the local borough.”

Rossendale councillors considered the plan at the latest development meeting.

An update corrected some minor discrepancies regarding land owned by the applicant and had small changes to car parking. Revised floor plans showed a staff kitchen, residents services and a staff toilet. A reception office can be used for staff and residents’ meetings. The applicant also stated will be a midnight curfew for residents.

Regarding jobs, there will be a manager, two part-time cleaners. two night security staff, three support workers and a caretaker.

In granting approval, Rossendale Council included a condition that no more than 20 residents will be accommodated there.