PRESS NOTICE
 
The Lancashire Evening Post, Monday, 22nd March 2004
 
Call for inquiry in row over drug rehab centre

 

By Emma Broom
Council Reporter
 
 
Campaigners fighting for the opening of a drug rehabilitation centre for ex-prisoners today called for another inquiry into the way the location was chosen.

The Evening Post has learned that the woman responsible for the first re-evaluation was Diane Barkley, contracts and monitoring officer for Tameside Council, but currently on secondment to the National Probation Directorate – the applicants behind the East Cliff scheme.

Members of the East Cliff Residents’ Association are furious that 13 recovering drug addicts could be moved into their neighbourhood.

Jim Carr, chief executive of Preston Council, had requested the first re-run of the process which led to 6 East Cliff being picked as the best location for the project.

His concerns related to the way Stoneham Housing, which owns the East Cliff premises, was also involved in the evaluation of suitable properties. Mr Carr said the selection process was “insufficiently transparent”

 
Independent

An enquiry carried out by Ms Barkley found that East Cliff was still the best place to base the scheme.

Today, Mr Carr said he was happy with the re-evaluation process.

He said: “I’m satisfied with the process because the individual who carried it out was independent of the of the project board. I’m satisfied that it has gone through the process they devised. What I was looking for was that Stoneham should not take part in the re-evaluation, not looking for someone that was independent of the Probation Directorate.”

However, residents were less convinced by the re-evaluation. Andrew Isaac, spokesman for the East Cliff Residents Association, said: ”Prospects Preston have always stated that the support of the local community is vital. It must be clear by now that the project enjoys no such support, quite the opposite.”

Mr Carr acknowledged that that one of the reasons why East Cliff was adjudged to be a prime spot for the rehabilitation centre was due to it having planning permission. However, following the March 8 meeting, Stoneham will now be asked to re-apply for change of use.

Mr Carr said: “ One of the reasons was that the Prospects Board decided it had a favourable planning pathway. It’s up to them to review that. It’s not a matter for us. We just hope that Preston doesn’t lose this facility.” Mike Kilbane, technical manager of the National Probation Directorate, said: “We agreed to commission a further evaluation at the request of Preston Council. It is categorically not the case that any one of the many criteria used in the scoring could have a material effect on this result.”

A spokesman for Stoneham, said: “ We are disappointed that the planning committee failed to make a concrete decision and has yet again deferred the decision to a later date. Stoneham maintains it’s position that the change of planning use is not required and that this project will serve the people of Preston well.”

 
 
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© The Lancashire Evening Post, March 2004