Controversial Essex rehab centre is back on the cards after appeal

CONTROVERSIAL plans to turn a guest house into a rehabilitation centre have resurfaced after the owner appealed against Uttlesford District Council’s refusal.

Ian Aldridge and his wife Helen submitted planning permission in March to turn Harwood Guest House on Stortford Road in to a short-term drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre.

But, amid fierce opposition the application was refused because “of its proposed use and location in a residential area, on a route to local schools and it is considered that this has increased the fear of crime in the local community.”

Now, Mr Aldridge has appealed the decision which will be heard by the Planning Inspectorate.

He told the Broadcast that the application was the same as last time, as was his reasoning to wanting the change.

“Nothing has changed,” he said. “The application is slightly more detailed but in principle it remains the same.”

Town planner Bob Bennett, who has been advising Mr Aldridge since the original application, explained the reasons for the appeal.

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“The previous application complied with all the planning authority’s policies on appearance, disturbances and environment so we were disappointed that it got refused.

“I have dealt with many planning permissions and appeal and it is rare to find one refused because of fear of crime and the main reason.

“With an independent review from the Planning Inspectorate I think we have a good chance of approval.”

However, opposition, which had signatures from over 250 people last time, has already begun to form again. Sarah Plummer, who led calls with Jo Murphy, told the Broadcast they would fight the application.

“I stand by my original reasoning that it is not suitable in its location. We accept there is a need in general for drug rehabilitation centres but one in such a location is not a wise decision – it will create more problems than it solves.

“There is a huge list of people fighting it as a lot more people have woken up to it after the decision was made [last time].

“This is not an emotional opposition and certainly not a “not in my back yard” ethos; this is purely a reasoned argument. We have spoken to experts who have run centres, dealt with recovering addicts and to local authorities. Based on all the evidence we have gathered we are opposing it.”