Should Dorset Rehab Hub Facility Be In A Middle Class Area?

Following a bitter and acrimonious debate at Dorset County Council it has been decided that the leafy middle class Tory voting ward of Preston, in Weymouth, will house those people recovering from drug and alcohol issues. The original intention to place it in a more central location close to those who are less likely to vote Tory was the favoured location but even they were not keen.

Just kidding. White middle class affluent area with obsession about house prices and the 1950’s or a working class town based location where poverty, suffering and bitterness at being trampled over takes many forms? That decision did not have to be made. It was always going to be the latter.

The argument by the ‘out of touch’ county councillors is that the hub should be close to the ‘problem’. Why is it that the expensive rehab centres, containing the celebrity or corporate or other wealthy addicts are based in leafy locations then? However, the so called ‘dregs of society’ have to be situated surrounded by those who seek to do harm either physically, mentally or both.

As can be seen from a couple of locals, including a neighbouring B&B owner, very valid reasons have been proposed to the Dorset County Conservative councillor (or at least he was last time most looked) for the near to town centre plan to be abandoned.

‘Dear Mr Byatt

I am writing to you primarily in your capacity as our local Conservative Councillor, but this does also coincide with your personal initial and ongoing involvement with the proposals for siting a Drug and Alcohol Recovery Hub at 22 Abbotsbury Road.

I am a small business, located opposite the proposed Hub, and would ask you to clarify / explain / respond, as our local representative, to the following points:

1. A submission to Public Health England was made in early 2014, to fund a Drug/Alcohol Recovery Hub in Weymouth. The funding of £620,00 was granted in March 2014, and has been sat dormant since – I would firstly question why this money has not been spent in 3 years ? Indeed the criteria in which the funding was granted, appears to have changed considerably: conflicting information is being provided regarding who will be running the Hub (EDAS no longer involved after November?), Bournemouth Churches have pulled out etc. Even details of how the Hub will run day to day and what stage of recovery the service user will be at, when accessing the hub, is completely unclear. The criteria has changed so much since that initial bid application, that it would appear that the funds are not being used in line with the initial proposals. Is this acceptable and honest ?

2, There was no consultation with local residents / businesses / Weymouth & Portland Councillors, as to possible sightings of a suitable property in a suitable location, or indeed how it would be run and the long term effect on the local community and businesses, house prices, crime statistics etc.

3, When a few local residents were informed of a Public Meeting back in February to discuss the proposals, you were present and appeared to chair the meeting. It was apparent that you tried to sway the meeting. Your brother and sister-in-law were in the Church Hall and proceeded to speak up about the great success that their daughter (your niece) had had in managing a similar project nr Northampton with no problems from local residents or drug dealing etc. Not only did you not introduce this couple as being related to you, but you also allowed a comparison to be made with 22 Abbotsbury Road. The facility which your niece was managing at the time (Charter House Clinic), is a stand alone Country House with large grounds, a swimming pool etc, with no immediate neighbours in sight. Hugely unfair, misleading and just a little dishonest to the public in allowing them to make an informed decision regarding this proposal.

4. The choice of property, 22 Abbotsbury Road, is completely unsuitable and appears to have been a very rash decision last year, for fear of losing the funding. It is a semi-detached property, neighbouring a Bed & Breakfast for holidaymakers and indeed opposite our Bed and Breakfast, with no private outdoor space to speak of. It is in an area which already has drug / alcohol dependency issues and visiting drug dealers, indeed only 2 weeks ago, there was further police involvement for cuckooing in Holland Road. There are ongoing drug deals in the alley ways surrounding our properties, individuals drinking and then leaving their empty wine bottles in the Doctors surgery car park, issues along the Rodwell Trail, to name but a few. Please justify this choice of property in this particular location. We understand other properties were looked at and dismissed, which would appear to have been far more suitable. It would also appear that the decision makers in this process, are not even local to this area, so have no realisation of the problems which we, the local community, already have to endure. Please clarify this decision.

5. As you will be aware, there is a current petition of over 700 local signatures, opposing the LOCATION of this Recovery Hub. This is very clearly a strong opposition to the proposals at 22 Abbotsbury Road.

6. We understand that the Planning Application for Change of Use has now been submitted for the Hub and would suggest that the concerns of the very many locals opposing the siting have not been addressed and I would therefore welcome your comments on the appropriateness of this. These proposals have been totally mismanaged since 2014.

In your capacity as our elected Councillor, please confirm your support to those 700 petitioners in your area, in relocating the recovery hub to a more suitable location, thereby giving the potential clientele at least half a chance of success in their recovery.’

And:

‘Dear Councillor Byatt.

We are the lead petitioners against the conversion of 22 Abbotsbury Road into a HUB for the treatment of drug and alcohol dependent persons in the county of Dorset. Over 700 residents have signed a petition objecting to the location of the proposed HUB at 22 Abbotsbury Road and we would like to know if you will be supporting us the residents within your ward in our attempt to have the location of the HUB in a more suitable location.

We should like to inform you of why we are personally objecting to the HUBs proposed location.

1. Our home for the last 11 years is directly attached to the proposed HUB and we fear an increase in noise levels both internally and externally at the property.

2. We have been advised that the value of our property will be affected considerably by around 40 to 60,000 pounds to the negative.

3. We fear that once our guests become aware of the facility being next door that this information will be released onto social media and review sites and adversely affect our business.

4. We are unsure of what the HUB is to be used for or who is responsible for it as there is so much contradictory information, no persons give the same answer and always contradict information we have read in DCC minutes of meetings.

5. The facility will be run for at least 10 years and during this time can evolve into whatever the council and the care providers would like it to be without consultation. After the 10 years no one knows what the property will be used for.

6. The care providers have stated that it is a Zero tolerance facility and anyone breaking the abstinence rule will not be allowed entry into the facility, we fear that these people will loiter around the facility causing trouble and ultimately join the ever-increasing numbers of homeless persons on the streets of Weymouth.

7. We live in an area of Weymouth with a disproportionate amount of properties housing recovering and active alcoholics and drug abusers also persons with mental health issues not to mention the bail house and youth care facility. Our area is plagued with drug dealing; only 2 weeks ago a second case of cuckooing to happen in the last twelve mounts was identified in Holland Road, yet again in one of BCHA properties. It can be a very intimidating place to live at times.

8. There are only three parking spaces at the property and with potentially group therapy meetings of 10 or more persons not including staff where will they park; the side roads are parking time restricted and Holland Roads doctors surgery already makes access and parking a problem for residents.

9. 22 Abbotsbury Road is within 50 meters of two convenience stores and an off-licence all selling alcohol at reduced prices, there is also the Rock public house. We believe these would be a temptation to those undergoing treatment.

10. Drug dealers regularly frequent the area selling their wares. Bringing more of their customers to our area will only cement the activity in and around our homes.

11. We have read in the minutes of a DCC meeting that the treatment providers at present run 13-week courses for opiate dependent users and are to condense this to 4 weeks due to the facilitys location; this is to prevent the persons being treated losing their accommodation and or their benefits. We feel that this dilution of the course will drastically reduce the effectiveness of the course, clients will fail yet again to rehabilitate and waste tax payers money. ( ? If the course is as effective in 4 weeks as 13 what have we been paying for)

12. Anonymity has been mentioned as key; 22 Abbotsbury Road will offer none. The unit is overlooked from all directions and the very busy doctors surgery door way is directly opposite the proposed entry point for the centre.

All of the above points are of concern to us, we should like to thank you, Councillor, for your valuable time and effort we wait in anticipation for your reply.”

I look forward to hearing from you.’

Who is at fault then?

  • Councillors who put business concerns over endemic societal issues.
  • Locals who over decades have had compassion and empathy sucked out of them by a materialistic lifestyle.
  • The media who have little interest in reality but worship the god of clickbait. 
  • Central government who have starved essential services of resources.
  • Snobs who look down on others whilst shielding those in their own fraternity who are equally in need.

If the comments on social media are a true representation of individual positions then it would appear logical for the folks of leafy suburbs to start panicking that the public in the not so leafy suburbs suggest the unsayable.

Your turn!’

I will watch with some interest.

Douglas James