Preston Council to lobby the Government over concerns they can do nothing to regulate where support homes open for addicts in the city

Preston Council has revealed it is "very concerned" about the number of 'support homes' for drink and drug addicts being planned and operating in the city.
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The council says it has no control over where the support homes are set up, due to a loop-hole in the law meaning they are exempt from any requirement to licence.

This means the council cannot refuse one opening anywhere, unlike in other cases of Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO), which must have its licence reviewed every five years.

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Now council bosses want mroe control over what happens in their communities -and next month plan to make representations to the House of Commons.

Residents of Gisburn Road, Ribbleton, have signed a petition against Recovery Homes. Image from Google.Residents of Gisburn Road, Ribbleton, have signed a petition against Recovery Homes. Image from Google.
Residents of Gisburn Road, Ribbleton, have signed a petition against Recovery Homes. Image from Google.

The matter has been revealed to The Post after a petition was created, asking Preston Council to remove recovery homes for addicts in the Brookfield area.

Lesley Orton launched the petition on entitled 'Recovery houses removed on Brookfield', which has been signed by more than 160 people.

>>>Click here to see the petition.

She claims a recovery house has been set up in Gisburn Road without any knowledge of the community. She also claims another two houses in Heathfield Drive are in the process of being opened as recovery houses by a company called Bright Start.

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She wrote: "Residents of Gisburn Road only (found) out after a "support worker " from this company reversed into a stationary vehicle outside the property.

"These houses are for active drug addicts, alcoholics, prison leavers and homeless people. We don't want these Recovery Houses within our community.

"People who have worked hard to buy their houses are now outraged that this can even happen without being consulted. We as a community are concerned for the de-valuation of our properties and fears for our families safety".

Bright Start

But Preston-based Bright Start say there have been no complaints made to the company in the four weeks since the first house opened in Brookfield, and insist they are a "quality housing provider".

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Director Dale Milne, said: "People's concerns are perfectly normal and valid, but we have had no single complaint from Brookfield at all.

"As a service, we say, 'give us two to four weeks and we'll prove that we're a quality housing provider'.

"We've had some absolutely amazing achievements in the past 17 or 18 months."

He added that some residents in Gisburn Road had already been so impressed by the work of the group, that they had baked cakes for tenants.

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He said that 98 per cent of Bright Start's clients are homeless and that all are fully supported to be able to improve their lives and break cycles of offending and addiction.

Their website states that candidates for their homes can still be in "active addiction", but must have the desire to stop and be able to accept support with that process. Service users must not use any illicit substances in the homes at any stage during their tenancy.

The company takes referrals from residential treatment centres, the police and probation services, drug and alcohol agencies, HM Prisons, homeless shelters, GP surgeries and self referrals.

Mr Milne says they have a "great" relationship with Preston and Chorley Councils, where all of their 16 homes are located. They are not planning to open any more once the two under development in Ribbleton are finished.

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On the topic of location, Mr Milne says that Bright Start do not get involved in choosing locations for homes, but that they simply agree a 25-year lease with a developer who sources suitable properties and deals with legalities.

He added: "People complaining that they haven't been consulted...well we can't - look at the prejudices.

"Our clients need confidentiality, we can't break the law and tell everyone around them what background they have, it wouldn't be fair.

"And these people want to break the cycle and be known as John, not John the drug addict."

What Preston Council say:

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Councillor David Borrow, Cabinet member for planning and regulation, said: “Properties like this are known as Supported Accommodation or Exempt Accommodation. Although they are classed as a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO), they are exempt from any requirement to licence.

Mandatory licensing applies in every local authority and requires the operators of Houses in Multiple Occupation with 5 or more occupants to apply for and receive a licence every five years.

At the time of writing, 220 HMOs are licensed in Preston. The exception to this is where the property is operated by a Registered Provider (i.e., a Housing Association or Community Interest Company) as Supported Accommodation.

"Even if the Council was able to introduce a local licensing scheme, these properties would be exempt, so there is nothing the Council can do. Many of these properties do not require planning permission either.

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"The Council is very concerned about the number of such uses planned and operating in the city and we are planning on lobbying nationally to bring these properties under local control.

"A House of Commons Select Committee has announced a review into Supported Accommodation starting in January, as this is a national issue, and the Council intends to make representations.”

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