A COMMUNITY is celebrating after controversial plans by a drug and alcohol charity to turn a former bakery into flats were rejected.
People living near the former Anderson’s bakery, in Ashgrove Avenue, Hartlepool, objected in their hundreds to the proposal by Developing Initiatives and Supporting Communities (DISC) following fears the flats could be used by recovering addicts.
Despite denials from DISC that high risk drug users and offenders would not be housed there, councillors agreed with residents that the development would increase people’s fear of crime.
The scheme was unanimously rejected by Hartlepool Borough Council’s planning committee to loud cheers and applause from the 40 or so residents at the meeting who campaigned against it.
Afterwards Darren Prince, who lives in nearby Kathleen Street, said: “We are very pleased at the council’s decision.
“This has been a proper community team effort. Everybody came together.”
During the meeting DISC were accused of adding to people’s fears by not engaging with residents and avoiding saying who would live in the flats.
Councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher said the number of objectors who signed the 1,673-name petition and wrote to the council was proof their fears were significant.
He said: “Unless people are really worried about something they tend not to make such a noise.
“Surely, this must be an example of fear of crime.”
Coun Akers-Belcher added he did not feel DISC had answered his questions about the process in deciding who would live in the flats.
He said: “I haven’t been given the assurances I was looking for today.
“With a school on the doorstep and a settled community I can’t take that risk.”
Claire McCreanor, DISC’s assistant director of housing, told councillors: “I think the whole fear of crime assumption comes from a petition that said we would be housing drug offenders and sex offenders.
“We have never said and have no intention of housing chaotic drug users or people who need rehabilitation for substance misuse or ex-offenders.”
She added: “We are a responsible social housing provider. We manage our houses and our tenants effectively.
“Any issues would be dealt with promptly and effectively.”
Ms McCreanor said the flats were intended for people who were settled in their lives, but needed accommodation.
But next door neighbours Jennifer and Chris Paul said they did not feel comfortable with vulnerable adults being housed there.
Chris said: “It overlooks our back garden which our three children use a lot.
“We don’t want our kids playing out there when potentially vulnerable adults are looking down on us.”
Mum of three Jennifer added security around an alley and insecure gates and fences added to their fears.
Coun Geoff Lilley said: “Settled populations lead to stable communities and transient populations lead to unstable communities.
“I know what a quiet residential area it is.
“I find it impossible to support this application.”
Councillor Ray Martin-Wells said: “I ask myself would I feel happy if this development was next door to me and quite simply the answer is no.
“There is a very real fear of crime.”
Ward councillors Kevin Cranney and Christopher Akers- Belcher also spoke out against the plan.
A spokesman for DISC said it was considering whether or not to appeal the council’s decision.