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Residents victorious after bail hostel plan is scrapped

PUBLISHED: 17:17 22 April 2009 | UPDATED: 10:50 12 August 2010

FURIOUS neighbours have seen off secret plans to house suspected and convicted criminals in their road. Residents from Farmfield Road, Downham,

FURIOUS neighbours have seen off secret plans to house suspected and convicted criminals in their road.

Residents from Farmfield Road, Downham, were so incensed to learn a ClearSprings bail hostel was being prepared that police were called to protect its staff last Wednesday.

But the plan was dropped at a meeting on Monday after neighbours made a petition, attended councillors' surgeries en mass and waved placards outside the four-bed property.

Teacher Deborah Osborne, 44, said: "The whole street is elated, really relieved.

"We only found out about the hostel because a builder let it slip. We just couldn't believe it could be dumped on us without any warning.

"Paranoid parents who barely let their children out at the moment might have become too frightened to let them play outside at all.

"The neighbours were very dignified and showed a lot of unity getting this scrapped. But if they don't build it here, I fear it will just go into another residential area."

The Downham site is surrounded by Burnt Ash Primary School and Valeswood Pre-School and Nursery, where Mrs Osbourne works.

ClearSprings said its homes accommodated homeless defendants on bail, or homeless prison inmates released on a tag, but never sex offenders or those posing a 'serious risk' to residents.

The company appeared to top the national news agenda last May when the Government hired it to build 150 hostels around the country.

As the hostels are rented homes in residential areas, the estate management company does not need to seek planning permission to open them.

Downham councillor Duwayne Brooks said: "This area has lots of vulnerable people passing through it. It was disgusting not to tell residents about it.

"But as soon as they found out about it, they were up in arms and everyone was out demanding it be stopped.

"They frightened ClearSprings off."

Bromley police said ClearSprings run no hostels in the borough, but there is a bail hostel run by the Probation Service in Beckenham.

Greenwich council said it was aware of one bail hostel in its borough and there is a bail hostel in Bexleyheath.

Valeswood headteacher Lesley Pavoux said: "I'm shocked we only found out about it by accident. A hostel within walking distance of various schools is not a good idea.

"If they're going to build bail hostels, they need to be properly supervised. People should be told where they are, and be consulted on where they go."

In an e-mail to a resident, Lewisham Mayor Sir Steve Bullock, said fears about the hostel residents were often 'misplaced', but said ClearSprings 'made a mess' of the situation.

Clearsprings said the decision not to go ahead with the hostel was down to the National Offender Management Service for London.

Residents were told the company was concerned about the safety of the hostel's residents.

jules.cooper@archant.co.uk

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