A SERVICE for recovering alcoholics and drug users is being moved to a new home in Carlisle’s historic quarter.
Unity – which provides treatment and support for people and families affected by substance misuse – is set to shift to Castle Street.
It had to move from Botchergate to make way for the city’s new Cumbria County Council headquarters – and is currently in temporary accommodation elsewhere.
Planners approved an application for it to move to Stocklund House after Greater Manchester West Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Cumbria’s alcohol and drug support services, applied for a change of use for part of the first floor office building that was previously used for business.
The proposed move caused some concern.
Objector Carol Robson said she knew how important the service was and had every sympathy for those struggling to recover from substance abuse.
But she was concerned about the potential impact the relocation might have on the character and safety of the area – a key part of the city’s tourist route.
Cumbria Tourism was consulted but no response was received.
Mrs Robson said: “Any proposal that may have a negative impact on the quality of the visitor experience, and therefore, possibly, on future tourist numbers, could lead to a downturn in the economy.”
She said it was not unreasonable to question or to fear how the presence of service users would impact on tourists and residents in the area as well as footfall in local shops.
Mrs Robson added: “In a recent debate I listened to on the migrant situation Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said ‘fear is a legitimate emotion and should not be interpreted as prejudice’.
“I agree with that and I believe firmly that it is the responsibility of those in authority to evade those fears.”
Claire Sinclair, who has managed Unity for 10 years said many people who use the service leave free from substances and go on to make a positive contribution to their community.
It currently supports about 50 to 60 people every day.
Regarding concerns of public safety, which were also raised when the service moved from Botchergate to its current temporary base in Albert Street North, she said “These are only perceptions and are not supported by evidence.”
She told councillors: “The people who use the service are people like you and me, like members of our family and friends.”
The decision by Carlisle City Council’s development control committee was unanimous.
Councillor Heather Bradley said there was no justification to refuse the application as there was no evidence that in its previous locations the problems feared had occurred.
Councillor Michael Boaden said: “Ultimately the people that this service serves are part of our community.
“This service is part of our community. It’s been a long-standing part of our community and therefore in seeking to carry out their work in this location I think our responsibility is to support it.”