Council could block plan for homes for drug addicts and ex-offenders

ANXIETY: The former Andersons Bakery which could be turned into a home for addicts and ex-offenders.
ANXIETY: The former Andersons Bakery which could be turned into a home for addicts and ex-offenders.

TOWN chiefs say they could buy a building to prevent a drug and alcohol charity turning it into housing.

Residents in Foggy Furze fear the former Anderson’s bakery on the corner of Windermere Road and Ashgrove Avenue could be turned into homes for addicts and ex-offenders by the Developing Initiatives and Supporting Communities (Disc).

A planning application has been submitted to the council to convert the property into four one-bedroom flats.

The charity, which helps people to find jobs, as well as with issues including poverty, crime, addiction, homelessness and family breakdowns, says the flats will help those most in need.

Around 60 residents attended a meeting on Saturday to discuss how to fight the proposals, with more than 600 names collected against the plan.

Council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher told the gathering: “If we can work with Disc, I would be quite happy to take these properties off their hands.

“We have got to get Disc to another meeting and ask them what is going on.” People who attended the meeting highlighted issues with existing problems in the area, such as eggs thrown at windows, air pellets fired at homes and fences being pulled down and set on fire.

It was suggested police and representatives from schools near to the properties are invited to a future meeting.

Landlord Ken Natt is a former anti-social behaviour officer for the council and now runs Rubicon Tenancy Management, which deals with problem tenants.

He warned the project could signal “wild west time” for the area and recalled a property he had supervised would be in order until 5pm and then became “utter chaos” when officers left.

He added: “Disc can’t support people 24/7 if there’s nobody on site.

“I’ve worked with Disc and sometimes it’s successful and some times it isn’t and it’s a nightmare.”

The meeting, chaired by Foggy Furze councillor Kevin Cranney, heard the properties had been bought at auction by Disc.

A spokesman for the charity said: “Whilst we always try and maintain an open dialogue with all interested parties, the meeting on Saturday was arranged independently by the local councillor before Disc had agreed to attend.

“We had no suitable members of staff available to attend at short notice, but have organised a follow-up meeting with the ward councillors and some local residents to discuss the issues raised.

“We have been working with Hartlepool council and its representatives to develop solutions to the problems of homelessness in the borough.

“It’s not common practice for social landlords to consult with residents on the specifics of tenants housed in their properties and, as a social landlord with many years’ experience in the sector, we believe that we are ideally placed to develop this unused property and bring it back into use for the good of the people of Hartlepool.
“We are a successful charity that has been based in the North East of England for 30 years and we pride ourselves on the integrity of our operations.”