Drug centre plans set to be approved today

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CONTROVERSIAL plans to open a drug and alcohol treatment centre near homes are expected to be given the go-ahead today.

NHS bosses have drawn up proposals to move the William Robson House from behind the Big Jug pub, in Claypath, Durham City, to a site near Durham Prison, in Whinney Hill.

Leaders of the Durham Drug and alcohol Commissioning Team say the existing centre is no longer fit for purpose and the proposed new base, former prison officers’ houses at 81 to 88 Whinney Hill, would allow them to provide better services.

The plans have caused controversy among residents who have long campaigned against the “studentification” of Whinney Hill and who have tried to encourage more families back to the area.

Residents have raised concerns about crime, antisocial behaviour and parking problems increasing.

There have been 12 letters of objection, including a petition signed by 48 residents.

However, Durham County Council planning officials are recommending the scheme be approved at a meeting today.

It is due to be debated by members of the council’s central and east area planning committee at County Hall, Durham City. In papers released ahead of the meeting, officers said: “For the purpose of planning there is no hard evidence on crime or the fear of crime increasing.

“This decision is very finely balanced but, in conclusion, officers support the application and recommend approval.”

The application is for a change of use for the vacant two-storey buildings, as well as minor alterations including the installation of a porch, gates, doors and windows.

Highways and environmental health officials have not raised any objections to the plans.

Planning permission for 81 Whinney Hill to be used as an office was granted 12 years ago.

In a statement to the council, the NHS team said the centre’s users would be visiting of their own free will and there is no evidence from centres of increased crime or anti-social behaviour.

The statement added that any inappropriate behaviour in or around the centre by users would not be tolerated and appropriate sanctions would be put in place.

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