Leyland residents admitted to fearing ‘the unknown’ as plans to convert a pub into flats for people with mental health problems were approved last week.
South Ribble Council has passed plans for Next Stage Ltd to transform the Waggon and Horses on Bent Lane into warden-monitored living accommodation.
Residents spoke of their worries that the proposed use for people with ‘low profile’ mental health issues will change in the future, and expressed fears of opening up their neighbourhood to crime.
One said: “What is in place to protect residents from future changes? We’re worried about it changing to a more serious class category, such as sex offenders.”
Another added: “It’s commendable the applicant wants to help people with mental health problems, but the issue we have is that there’s no guarantee it will stay like that.
“We also believe this could attract undesirables to the area. We live in a quiet, well established neighbourhood, which we’re proud of.
“Why would we open ourselves up to potential crime? We lived here first in what we think is a desirable area; why would we want to open ourselves up to people who cannot look after themselves?”
One woman speaking at the planning meeting added: “This could become people’s Saturday night out, to come here and disturb the people who live there.
“It’s the fear of the unknown. If there are so many people under the same roof, that may not bode well. It could be a ticking time bomb.”
But Paul O’Rourke, managing director for Next Stage, argued this type of scheme has worked well in other places.
He said: “I think the biggest fear is that the term ‘mental health’ is so far reaching that we could end up with mad men and murderers, but in truth, the type of people who will live there are already in this same community.
“In a two-mile radius of the Waggon and Horses, we already support 10 adults with mental health problems.
“We represent more than 100 people in the North West, and it’s true some have drug or alcohol issues, but I’d say that’s fewer than 10 of those 100.
“Bringing someone like that wouldn’t work here anyway. All the residents have got to be compatible; it’s no good bringing someone in who will upset everyone else. There will be no offenders or people with drug-related issues.”
Planning committee member Coun Jim Marsh, who represents Coupe Green and Gregson Lane, said: “We have two places like this in my village, and they are part of the community. There are worries that later on you’ll start getting people like druggies, but that is honestly not the case.”
Coun Dorothy Gardner added: “I know someone who was institutionalised but wanted independence, and this type of scheme has been a life-saver for her. She needed support, not exclusion.”
Coun Derek Forrest concluded: “I am impressed that the applicant has met with our residents before now and has even taken some to see the other facilities he manages.
“I think we can have confidence in this applicant. I think he is sincere.”
The committee voted unanimously to grant approval, on condition the building only be used for people with ‘low profile’ mental health problems.