CIVIC chiefs are planning to use a Hampshire community centre to provide "desperately-needed" accommodation for the homeless.

New Forest District Council has drawn up proposals to convert Blackfield Neighbourhood Centre into five bedsits following failed attempts to let the building, which has been vacant for some time.

The council is trying to reduce the number of homeless people staying in bed and breakfast accommodation by making use of existing buildings in the district.

Last May it secured Pentagon Court in Blackfield in a move which has already cut its annual B&B bill by at least £130,000.

Now the authority looks set to give itself planning permission to convert the community centre, which is next to a nursery on the Heather Road estate.

Its application says: "The building is already in keeping with its surroundings as most houses within the overall development employ similar, if not the same, materials.

"The bedsits will each contain their own private en-suite and robust furniture for residents to store their belongings, along with a fridge positioned below the desk.

"There will also be two communal kitchens which will provide a space for residents to eat, cook and do their laundry.

"The property will be used to address the short-term housing requirements of five separate 'general need' households within the community until long-term solutions are secured.

"It is hoped the scheme will quickly provide desperately-needed accommodation.

"The conversion of buildings into flats or bed-sits can make an important contribution to the local housing stock.

"Blackfield Community Centre provides an ideal location for temporary accommodation for smaller households awaiting longer term housing solutions, given its proximity to services, shops, and public transport.

"The proposal’s impact on the character and appearance of the immediate area will be minimal.

"The adjacent nursery operator have been made aware of the proposals and no concerns or objections have been raised."