Dunmow councillors change sides in ongoing debate over drugs rehab centre plans

PUBLIC outcry has persuaded Dunmow Town Council to change its stance on plans for a rehabilitation clinic.

At an extraordinary meeting last week, the council opposed – after originally backing – plans to convert Harwood Guest House, in Stortford Road, into a drying out clinic for people with alcohol and drugs addictions.

Planning authority Uttlesford District Council threw out the plans in June but the owners have appealed.

Speaking on behalf of hundreds of residents who have campaigned against the clinic since its initial submission in March, Sarah Plummer was delighted to have the town’s elected officials backing the cause.

“We are very happy that they have recognised public opinion. They are here to represent the people of Dunmow so they should listen to the public – they did a good job,” Mrs Plummer told the Broadcast.

“One hundred per cent of public correspondence to Uttlesford District Council was to formally object – there was no communication to support it. We also had a petition of objection signed by 500 Dunmow residents and our chamber of commerce publically opposed it.

“All of the schools in the town are less than one mile from the proposed clinic, and it would be a contradiction of the town’s mandate, which is to provide safe place to live with access to key services to all the members of the community.”

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However, the council’s stance was by no means unanimous, with seven councillors opposing the plans and four backing it.

Gywnn Davies, a supporter of the plans, applauded the applicants, Ian and Helen Aldridge, for trying to provide a clinic.

“We are a caring community and I would like think we can help them to kick their habit and start to contribute to society,” he said.

“Obviously people have the right to their own point of view but the premise of the campaign that the clients would be a threat is wrong.

“There is no evidence they have any effect on tourism or increase cases of child molestation.”

After moving against the plans, the town council will send a letter outlining its reasons why planning permission should be refused to the Planning Inspectorate, who will hear the appeal.