Villagers buy house to keep out ex-drug addicts
The Times, 1 August 1997
It's not nimbyism, say residents who raised £200,000 in three days to foil rehabilitation charity.
VILLAGERS learnt yesterday that they had succeeded in their bid for a house after raising £200,000 in three days to stop a charity from using it for former drug addicts and alcoholics.
Last night Kenneth Eckersley, the charity's head, said: "It is out-and-out 'nimbyism' (Not In My Back Yard), but I suspect that if it was happening in my village, I would probably think the same way."
Addiction Retraining Services had made an offer close to the asking price of £195,000 for the former pub on the village green at Burton Leonard, North Yorkshire, which has a population of 473. The organisation planned to rent the three-storey house to another charity, Narconon, to prepare up to 16 people for life back in the community. Contracts were to have been exchanged yesterday.
The stone-built village, close to the cathedral city of Ripon, is a sought-after country ad dress for middle-class professionals and retired business people. More than 140 of them, fearful of former addicts living across the road from a school, packed the village hall on Sunday. They agreed to make their own bid for the 21-room Crown House, pledging a minimum of £500 each.
Mr Eckersley, 69, executive director of Addiction Retraining Services, who had been negotiating for the house for six months, said: "They have got the wrong idea about what we are trying to do, but I am happy to stand aside, provided we do not lose financially. There is no point in moving into a place where there is so much antagonism and hostility."
Andy Hales, a former NatWest bank manager who moved in three years ago, said: "We bought an off-the-shelf limited company and have renamed it Burton Leonard Management. People will be allocated shares in it equivalent to the money they have donated." Within three days 50 households had pledged enough to cover a bid.
Mr Hale, 49, said: "Amounts into four and five figures have been promised. Our aim is to sell it eventually to a buyer who will find a more suitable use, preferably as a private home. Our concerns were that addicts might be wandering the village without any form of obvious security. Had it been an isolated house in its own grounds we might have thought differently, but this is a totally inappropriate development."
Mr Eckersley said: "This house would not have been used by addicts; they would already have come off the drugs by the time they reached Burton Leonard. The students, as we call them, would stay for up to 24 weeks, first having their bodies purged of the toxins the drugs leave and then having their minds prepared to face the outside world. They would have been no threat to the community."
Bridget Mellor, who moved to the village when her husband retired as Deputy Chief Constable of South Wales Police, said: "Our children can walk to school or to the shops to buy sweets, and I feel it's safe for them to do so. I don't know how stable some of the residents of the centre would have been."
Dennis Muldoon, 58, a consultant working from home on contracts in China, was elected chairman of Burton Leonard Management. He said: "I am so relieved. However, the problem will now become someone else's. We feel for any other community that will be threatened in this way."