IT has emerged that the proposed rehabilitation centre for Waringstown may not be available to people living in the area.
Several key issues about the proposed rehab centre for land at Newline were discussed at an information meeting which took place last week.
The meeting was chaired by Pastor Hills of Teen Challenge UK who will take care of the day to day running of the centre and landowner Tyrell Arnold. Also present were the committee of Meadows of Hope and other residents of Waringstown and surrounding areas.
Following a presentation, residents took the opportunity to raise a number of concerns about security, the nature of the crimes committed by people using the rehab centre, the possible negative effects the centre could have on the area as well as the impact of extra traffic and the need to finance the centre.
One local resident who attended the meeting said: “Most of the reasons for building the centre were derived from helping people with problems from the local community, yet in contradiction to this it has been stated that the centre cannot be used by local residents.
“The centre will only be used by people brought in from other areas of Northern Ireland and the UK.”
The Waringstown resident said she was concerned about the possible presence of violent offenders and those convicted of sexual offences at the rehab centre. She said while they were given assurances there would be no paedophiles admitted to the centre, they weren’t told of any other types of criminals who would be ruled out.
The woman continued: “Examples of police reports surrounding other Teen Challenge Rehab centres were given by members of the public, which showed numerous accounts of incidents surrounding the centres, which is highly alarming to the residents on the Newline Road and in Murray Wood.“
She added: “On a very practical note additional traffic to the town will be generated by the staff of the centre, the basic amenity services and any additional vehicles travelling to the centre, these will all be going down the Newline Road which is barely capable for such traffic.
“Other points raised during the meeting concerned the impact on the local economy. Teen Challenge UK will have to raise £300,000 a year for the running costs of this centre through fundraising.
“Are we expected to believe that the rehab centre will able to raise this every year in such a harsh financial climate, or will the centre become yet another disused unit after a while. This raises the question - why build a new unit in the first place? Why not just use one of the many derelict buildings in NI? Teen Challenge UK have previously converted disused hotels and old buildings for their uses.”
The Waringstown woman concluded: “It is highly commendable to want to help people out of difficult life situations but why not just carry out the work in their on environments. There are countless outreach projects that go into communities to help people in these situations, why bring the problems into Waringstown?”
Ulster Unionist MLA Jo-Anne Dobson attended the meeting. Afterwards she commented: “It was incredibly important for the proposers to hear and listen to the views of their neighbours and the local residents of Waringstown.
“I hope that all the views expressed on the night will be taken into consideration.
“There are many concerns held by local residents regarding this facility and the meeting gave them the opportunity to put these directly to those planning to build and run the facility.”
Speaking on the matter DUP members Stephen Moutray, Carla Lockhart and Mark Baxter jointly said: “We as a party took time to consider at length the proposal for the Rehabilitation Centre in Waringstown and to speak with objectors, the applicant and planning officials in this regard.”
“Having considered the project in detail we are opposed to the siting of the Rehab Centre near Waringstown. Whilst we commend the ideology behind the project in terms of assisting young people with alcohol and drug addictions we believe that Waringstown is not best placed for the construction of such a centre.” “Waringstown is an extremely settled village and one that has not had significant unrest or anti-social behaviour. Additionally a build of this nature we believe is outside of planning policy and a clear local need would have to be demonstrated.”
The ‘MAIL’ spoke to Tyrell Arnold who outlined the reasons for wanting to bring the rehab facility to Waringstown.
He said: “The centre is for people who are in deep need. We can’t just turn our backs on these people.
“Nobody knows when they are going to need help themselves.”
Tyrell explained that the facility was primarily for people living outside the immediate vicinity because Teen Challenge UK have found rehabilitation works better if people are taken out of their usual environment.
He added: “There will be adequate security, run to Teen Challenge UK’s high standards.
“The bottom line is people need help and I want to help them. This is why I want to bring this facility to Waringstown.”