Plans for Cynon Valley rehab centre refused after hundreds of objections
Plans for temporary supported accommodation in the Cynon Valley for people with drug and alcohol addiction, which received objections from hundreds of residents, have been refused by councillors.
The plans, which the application described as an “eight-bedroom rehab centre” at Oasis on Heol Bryn Gwyn in Penywaun were rejected by Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s planning committee on Thursday, March 23.
They included the change of use and extension of the existing hall to provide site manager accommodation and the construction of a new building to the rear of the site.
The planning report said people returning from a rehabilitation programme would be free from drug addiction and would be provided with somewhere to live with support provided to successfully integrate back into society, including help to find jobs.
It said those at the beginning of their journey would live at the centre whilst their application to a regulated rehabilitation programme is assessed and processed, and it would allow them to be housed in a safe environment, without the danger of mixing with a difficult social environment within the communities in which they live.
The report said the centre would not provide any form of medical care or administer medication to those living at the facility but due to the level of support that would be provided, it is considered that the use would more appropriately fall within use class C2 rather than use class C3.
The plans included support beds for people struggling with addiction to drugs and/or alcohol but who are serious and committed to changing their lives, and integration support beds for those who have already successfully completed a 12-month rehabilitation programme.
There was one letter of support, three letters of objection and a petition containing 371 signatures from residents who were against the proposal.
The letter of support said the centre would benefit a lot of vulnerable people.
But those against said it would result in a loss of amenity to the local area, would impact on transport locally and would result in an increase in medical staff, as well as the number of emergency vehicles.
They claimed it would have a detrimental impact in the community, would reduce the value of houses, and as there are two schools located within close proximity, the safety of the community should be considered.
They also said it would have a massive detrimental impact on the daily lives of residents who live in the area and would result in noise pollution and traffic congestion due to the site being located in a busy zone.
They added that it would not be in the best interests of local people and “the first time in forever that the area gets any new development and this was the go-to idea”.
The petition said the area has an acknowledged issue with drugs, alcohol and poverty which leaves some members of the community vulnerable.
It also said the area once had an excellent provision to help with this, but funding was removed, adding that the planning application has been “railroaded” through with very little information provided to the community.
The petition said the majority of the community are not opposed to rehabilitation but it is felt the concerns raised are very legitimate.
Views of councillors
Councillor Louisa Addiscott, who represents Penywaun on RCT Council, said the application has caused angst in the community.
She said: “The people of Penywaun are very passionate about their place and there is a strong community spirit but they do not live in a bubble and they know that there are problems in Penywaun and they know that people need support.”
But she said public safety and fear are very real for residents and the location does not lend itself to the use, adding concerns about the lack of a management plan and the fact it would be non regulated.
She said she recognises the importance of having some form of provision like this but said she couldn’t support the application in this location because of concerns over access to substances, including shops that sell alcohol nearby.
Councillor Sharon Rees, chair of the committee said it is not a rehab centre as it offers accommodation for those dependent on drugs or alcohol before rehabilitation and supported housing for those who have already gone through rehabilitation.
She raised particular concern about those who are yet to go into rehabilitation saying that they’re very vulnerable.
Fellow committee member Councillor Wendy Lewis said it’s commendable what Oasis wants to do for these vulnerable people but there are far too many concerns around the unregulated bits of it, and Councillor Ross Williams said they’ve got a duty of care to residents and the people who need support.
Councillor Mike Powell said they need to be mindful of the reasons they’re refusing it and that they haven’t got sufficient information, while
Councillor Gareth Hughes said the intended use of the centre is a positive thing and is very much needed and said he doesn’t think it’s the wrong location but is satisfied to refuse it because of the lack of a management plan and further detail.
The planning officers recommended refusal for the application, saying: “The proposal would provide temporary supported living accommodation for individuals suffering from drug and/or alcohol addiction prior to and following the completion of a regulated rehabilitation programme, which would be undertaken elsewhere.
“A number of concerns have been raised by residents in terms of the compatibility of the use with the predominantly residential character of the surrounding area, the application site is situated within a sustainable location where such uses would usually be found.
“The principle of the proposed use could therefore be considered acceptable, subject to a number of carefully worded planning conditions which would ensure that it would not have a detrimental impact upon the amenity of surrounding residential properties.
“It is also considered that the physical aspects of the development would not have a significant impact upon the character and appearance of the site or surrounding area, the amenity and privacy of surrounding residential properties or upon highway safety in the vicinity of the site.
“It would appear however, that the proposed use which, holistically, would involve intervention and help to persons with a drug or alcohol related addiction, would not be subject (at this site) to any regulatory control by an appointed body.
“While it is not the role of the Planning system to act as a regulator (where one does not appear to exist), the Local Planning Authority must have a thorough understanding of what is being proposed and how any situations that arise at the facility will be dealt with (in order to understand any implications or consequences of the use proposed).
“In planning terms, the description of the proposed development would (if approved) form the authorised use. The applicant has described how it is envisaged that the facility would work, which would appear not to conform with a general understanding of what a rehabilitation centre would involve and was asked to refine the description of development but declined to do so.
“The applicant has also been asked to provide a management plan in order to understand how the site would operate and to help with the consideration of the application, but has declined.
“In light of this lack of information, it is considered that the acceptability of the application cannot be adequately assessed.”
By BBC LDRS
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