A NEW 60-bed emergency hostel for rough sleepers was unanimously backed by councillors.

The city council-led project has now been given planning permission to change former offices in Floyds Row, close to Oxford Central police station, into a £1.6m specialist centre. It is expected to open later this year.

The council said homelessness has increased by 510 per cent in Oxford over recent years.

The authority's deputy leader, Linda Smith, said the permission granted by the West Area planning committee was 'fantastic news'.

It is thought about 100 people are currently sleeping rough across Oxford.

Polly Mckinlay, a senior commissioner for the city council, said: “Rough sleeping is a concern to us all and in November 2018 estimates suggested there were 94 rough sleepers on the streets in Oxford.

"Although Government funding itself helps us bring this number down and extend services, it’s still too high.

"Waiting lists still exist and many initiatives only have one year’s funding."

She added: "Rough sleeping reduces life expectancy by more than 30 years which is why Oxford City Council is committed to ensuring no one should sleep rough on the streets and to make sure individuals are supported to achieve sustainable accommodation outcomes."

The new shelter will be divided into three parts to meet the 'clear and pressing need' for new accommodation.

It will provide beds for people staying in Floyds Row for up to 72 hours.

The second use will provide dormitory accommodation for people for up to three weeks.

While other users will be able to use a daytime assessment hub in the building.

Ms Smith said on Tuesday, when the plan was passed: "There's a lot of work to do before October.

"Fortunately I get to work with a talented and dedicated team of council officers who will be throwing themselves into this project which will help deliver our goal of no one having to sleep out on our city's streets."

Homeless shelter Simon House, which was opened in 1980, will be knocked down and turned into flats. The Paradise Street has capacity for 52 people.

A replacement for that will be opened in the summer in Cowley.

That will built in Rymers Lane, near the Templars Shopping Park.

Another former homeless shelter, Lucy Faithfull House, in Speedwell Street, was demolished last year. The site will be used for housing.

Some people wanted to that to remain but the city council said the building was not suitable for homeless accommodation.