Plans to set up a new hostel for homeless people in North Devon are gathering pace.

North Devon Council is looking to set up a ‘safe sleep’ service through Freedom Community Alliance in Barnstaple.

A planning application has been lodged by Freedom Community Alliance to change the use of its Howard Avenue centre to a hostel during the winter months.

The service would be accessible for as many as 20 rough sleepers from October 1, through to the end of March 2019.

The council tendered the service to Freedom Community Alliance with an urgent decision, citing a need to obtain planning permission, maximise staff capacity and purchase necessary kit required to run the service in time for its October start.

North Devon Council leader, Des Brailey, said: “At the moment we provide emergency accommodation to rough sleepers during periods of severe weather.

“This extra funding will extend this emergency provision for the whole of the winter, over a six month period.

“It will mean rough sleepers can receive the support they need in a safe and comfortable environment, while we find a more permanent solution to help get them off the streets.”

The move comes after the council was awarded £285,000 from the Government’s £30million Rough Sleeping Initiative Fund.

The money awarded is expected to cover the full cost of delivering the safe sleep service, which has been estimated at £130,000 for the six-month period.

The urgent decision report said the Freedom Community Alliance was the most appropriate service, after considering use of the Salvation Army Hall, Encompass Southwest and bringing back use of Rosebank Day Centre.

Nigel Harris, MD of Freedom Community Alliance, said: “We are pleased to be partnering with the local authority to provide access to specialist support, food and safety for rough sleepers at the Freedom Centre this winter.

“Rough sleeping in Devon has been steadily increasing over the last few years and as a charity working with the homeless we are delighted that a major intervention to directly address the situation at the worst time of year has been funded.

“Subject to the project gaining planning consent, this would be seven nights a week for six months and the first time a provision on this scale is available in North Devon and we hope the public will be supportive.”