A PLAN to convert a toilet block into a youth drop-in centre has been given the go-ahead despite local opposition.

Residents fear problems of anti-social behaviour around Wyke Gardens in Weymouth will only get worse if a youth centre is opened there.

But councillors feel the centre will go some way to help solving the problem by bringing trained youth workers into the community where youngsters congregate.

The public conveniences at the entrance to the gardens off Portland Road have stood empty since being closed 18 months ago by Weymouth and Portland Borough Council due to high running costs.

Beaches youth club has been looking for a permanent base for a while and managers saw an opportunity to take over the block and set up a hub, providing support and guidance to young people.

Setting up next to a park will enable users to benefit from sports facilities.

A fold-away awning would be installed at the back of the block to provide additional space for users, members of the council’s planning and traffic committee heard.

More than a dozen letters were sent to the council, most of them from people living next to the gardens in Victoria Road and who object to the scheme.

Residents say the gardens is a hotspot for anti-social behaviour and raised concerns about drunken teenagers, vandalism, litter, graffiti and noise.

Landlord of the nearby Wyke Smugglers pub Joe Stone told the committee said the area was ‘wholly inappropriate’ for a youth centre as residents already suffer ‘unacceptable’ levels of noise from young people who hang around there.

Mr Stone claimed no attempts had been made to address existing problems, and suggested an empty shop would be a more appropriate site for the centre.

Beaches chairman Geoff Petherick said the group had been trying for several years to find a home.

He said having a permanent facility would give them an opportunity to access funding.

Mr Petherick said not everyone was against it as he had spoke to elderly people living nearby who felt it was important to engage with young people. Wyke Regis Protection Society and the Friends of Wyke Gardens also support it.

Councillor Ray Banham said he had ‘no hesitation’ supporting the application, and said he was in a similar situation a few years ago when making a decision about the Tides youth project centre.

Coun Robbie Dunster said youngsters ‘needed every chance’ and Coun Ian Roebuck said having a meeting place and professional people working in an area where there is anti-social behaviour would ‘improve the situation’.