|The Lancashire Evening Post, Friday, 7th November 2003|
The hostel, a Grade II listed former vicarage, is being proposed by the National Probation Directorate as a home for persistent drug offenders who have just left prison.
The building would house 15 men, all aged over 18, for around 12 weeks while they battle drug problems.
They would be regularly drug tested while they remained there.
But the residents say crime will rocket and the elderly will live in fear.
Many residents were too afraid to be named for fear of reprisals from the hostels future residents.
One pensioner said: “I’ve lived here 30 years and we hads a lot of problems when the bail hostel was here.
“It was terrible. You never new what you would find in the morning. We were broken into once by a drug addict.
“You were always looking over your shoulder if you were leaving the house. The lad that broke in was hanging around and saw us leaving. He was high on drugs too.
Another resident said: ”During the time the hostel was open, the crime rate was high. Cars were stolen, broken into and generally damaged.
“People were frightened to come home on their own in the dark because the residents of the hostel or their visitors were usually hanging around.”
Another said: “Presto City Council is trying to attract new investment in Winckley Square, getting people to set up superior bars and restaurants and invest in luxury flats and houses.
“they are not mentioning the hostel. It’s not being done in an open a manner. I feel people are being tricked.
East Cliff Residents Association is fighting the plans and plan to lobby the council, the Home Office and the Probation Service.
They are organising a fighting fund and aim to hire a planning consultant and a barrister to argue their case.
At a public meeting in St George’s Church Hall, they urged people to contribute £50 each to fund their campaign.
They slammed the selection process and said that the former hostel’s owners, Stoneham Housing Association, who will run the new project, were involved in choosing the premises. Businessman John Lavelle, whose firm is close to the planned hostel, said: “Stoneham own the building and they are part of the selection process and we think that sufficient to raise doubts.
“We were presented with a fait accompli. We were faced with a brick wall and we have to take out one brick at a time.”
Ward Councillor Ken Ward said: “Nobody new about it until local residents received a letter saying that after extensive consultation, they were getting this on their doorstep.
Because these are listed buildings, people can’t easily fit extra locks and security. It’s a lot of vulnerable people.”
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