RESIDENTS are battling to prevent a controversial drug and alcohol treatment centre opening late into the evening seven days a week.
The NHS moved the services from Claypath, Durham City, to near Durham Prison, on Whinney Hill, last year despite fierce opposition from Whinney Hill Community Group (WHCG), which said the new Centre for Change would lead to increased crime, anti-social behaviour and parking problems and stunt their efforts to halt “studentification” and encourage more families back into the area.
When Durham County Council gave the project the go-ahead, it restricted the facility’s opening hours to weekday daytimes, Saturday mornings and until 7pm one night a week.
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However, the council itself – which has since taken responsibility for public health matters – is now seeking consent for the centre to open 8am to 10pm, seven days a week.
Diane Ward, secretary of WHCG, said residents were dismayed at the move.
There has been increased loitering and littering and one female resident was scared to walk by the centre at certain times, she added.
Further, promised community liaison has failed to materialise.
“That this application is being made while the centre is still in its infancy leads us to believe that those who run it have absolutely no regard for the concerns of the residents or for the stipulations of the planning committee and, given the lack of community liaison, appear to be operating in breach of planning conditions,” Mrs Ward said.
However, Mark Harrison, joint commissioning manager at the council’s drug and alcohol commission team, said since the centre opened last May there had been no reports of anti-social behaviour and he saw “no reason why this should not be continued”.
On community engagement, he said there had been an open meeting when the centre first opened and another was planned for next month.
“The reason for extended opening hours is to give people help at a time when they need it and give us the chance to evaluate their progress, especially if they have returned to work,” he said.
Further details on the application can be found online at durham.gov.uk/planning, using the planning reference CE/14/00090/VOC.
Members of the public have until Friday to make comments to the council.
The final decision will be taken by a council planning committee.