NEIGHBOURS on a Sunderland estate protesting against plans to house criminals in a quiet cul-de-sac have won a temporary reprieve.
Many of those living near 1 Paton Square in Plains Farm had been shocked to find out the empty property could be used to house offenders or suspects on bail.
Owners of the building, Home Group, have said the house is one of their ‘general needs’ properties, and that the plan had been to use it for the Ministry of Justice’s Bail Accommodation and Support Service (BASS)
As word spread, a group of up to 100 people gathered two days in a row at the property, as well as at the Home Group offices in nearby Plains Road.
Michelle Robertson, who lives nearby, said the house had previously been a magnet for antisocial behaviour, but since it had been empty, the area had quietened down.
“It’s lovely now,” she said. “We’ve got it the way we wanted it.”
Next-door neighbour Joan Skinner said: “We’ve had hell to put up with for years. It’s always been a troubled house, but it’s quiet now. We don’t want to go back to how it was.”
Julie Haskett added: “Children from the four squares are able to play out together and that would have to stop.”
On Friday, protestors gathered at the property and barricaded the front entrance to prevent workers going in.
Silksworth councillor Philip Tye, who attended a meeting between Home Group and residents, said: “It was extremely heated. Home Group are trying to justify what they are doing but we won’t accept it. No way are the residents going to allow it.”
The protestors were told at the meeting, held in Durham, that the housing group would review its decision as to what to do with the property, but that it would have to be repaired either way. It was agreed further talks would be held before any action was taken.
“The position has now changed slightly,” Coun Tye said. “They say they have a legal obligation to protect its clients, but my obligation is to the residents who already live here.”
Many of the residents said the property should be turned into a youth centre.
Jolan Gergely, head of the BASS service, said: “We have written to the police and local authority to ask to use the property in Paton Square for a care and support service called BASS.
“BASS properties provide private accommodation for people who are awaiting trial or those released from prison on Home Detention Curfew, having served their sentence. There are strict criteria about who can live in these properties – we are not allowed to house sex offenders or high-risk individuals.
“People living at a BASS property have strict conditions attached to their bail or licence and they also bound by an antisocial behaviour agreement as part of their tenancy house rules.
“The property has been empty for some time so we are carrying out repairs before it is up and running. Before we occupy any BASS property, we work with the neighbours of the property who are always given contact details of BASS staff in case they have any concerns or issues.”