Pubdate: Fri, 23 Oct 1998
Source: Scotsman (UK)
Copyright: The Scotsman Publications Ltd 
Contact:  http://www.scotsman.com/
Author: Frank Urquhart

PLANS FOR ABERDEEN DRUGS CENTRE REJECTED

PLANS to open Aberdeen's first drugs detoxification centre in a quiet
street in Torry have been rejected by local residents who fear the
unit will bring crime, violence and prostitution to their doorsteps.

More than 2,000 people, living or working in Torry, have signed a
petition objecting to the proposed unit which would be developed in
Balnagask Road, next to a 52-bed nursing home already being built by
the private health care company behind the venture.

Torry is already one of the worst areas for heroin addiction in
Aberdeen - the so-called "smack capital" of Scotland.

The total number of intravenous drug users in the city is estimated to
be between 2,000 and 4,000. And there are at least 850 registered
heroin addicts in Aberdeen who have to go as far afield as Newcastle
and the Wirral to receive detox treatment.

Lynne Falconer, a local housewife who organised the petition said: "It
is an unfortunate reality that drug addicts bring their problems with
them. Not least of these is how they fund their addiction.

She said: "Drugs are already a problem in this area. Allowing recently
reformed addicts out in such an environment would put extreme
temptation in their way."

Another local resident said: "There are so many elderly residents in
the surrounding area who already live in fear of Torry's ever
increasing drugs problem and as far as I can see this unit would only
make matters worse."

Keith Douglas, the director of Argus Care, the private healthcare firm
behind the project, said the centre would fill a badly needed gap in
the city's healthcare needs.

The centre will compromise an eight-bed detox unit with a separate
rehabilitation unit, providing secure facilities for a further 30 patients.

"We have been looking at this particular service gap for the last two
yeas," said Mr Douglas. 'There is no proper facility in Aberdeen at
the moment, and no residential detoxification and facility north of
Glasgow.

"We would be the first to put our hands up and say we are not experts.
But we will buy in the right level of expertise and management if we
are allowed to build this centre."

Mr Douglas said he understood local concerns but he claimed they were
fuelled by a lack of understanding of the scheme.

He claimed: "The experience elsewhere shows that, first of all, you
must have a rehabilitation unit in a community where there already is
some difficulty with drugs.

"That is most important, otherwise you are alienating the addicts from
their natural environment."

Peter Cockhead, the city council's director of planning, will
recommend that the scheme should be conditionally approved at next
Thursdays planning committee meeting.

He said: "It would be difficult to resist the current application
unless there are material planning considerations which would justify
refusal.

"The applicant has given a written undertaking that the proposed
facility would be a secure unit, protected by closed circuit
television and that professional staff will reside in the unit 24
hours a day.

"Any drugs on the premises would be solely intended for medical
treatment of the residents and locked away."
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Checked-by: Patrick Henry