ARC Light's new home should be part of the council's new multi-million pound office development at Hungate, York, protesters said today.

Campaign groups, angry at the prospect of one of four short-listed sites becoming the charity's new centre, have joined forces as Residents United in a new website.

The joint protest has been formed to demand City of York Council follows the lead of Middlesbrough Council, which placed a needle exchange in the town hall after public objections to locating it in residential areas.

But a council spokeswoman said the Hungate site had been considered by officers, and ruled out because it did not meet the strict timetable needed to find Arc Light a new home.

With the council's new offices not expected to be built before 2009, and Government cash for Arc Light running out in the next 12 months and dependent on a firm commitment to move, the authority instead plumped for the Nunnery Lane, Marygate and Union Terrace car parks, as well as the former Reynard's Garage in Piccadilly, as the four sites which could house the charity.

Council chiefs will choose a preferred site at a meeting of the authority's ruling executive on May 2.

The protest group states: "While all the residents support the principle of Arc Light and understand that there is a social responsibility for the citizens of York to assist people who find themselves homeless, we strongly believe such a facility should not be located in any of the densely residential areas that have been short listed.

"There is a far better site for Arc Light - as part of the Hungate development, where York council intends to build a new £30 million head office. The development is close to the city centre but, as part of a commercial development, would not be within close proximity to existing residents."

A public meeting held last week to discuss the scheme at the Moat House hotel attracted more than 200 people.

At a full council meeting last week, leader Steve Galloway, pictured, pledged to defend "minorities" from the "forces of the Right" and continue the consultation process.

A City of York Council spokeswoman said: "Hungate was one of several sites that have been looked at, but it would not be available within the required timescale."

Updated: 09:42 Monday, April 17, 2006