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Residents win victory against Arundel bail hostel
21 January 2008A proposed bail hostel in Arundel will not be opened following strong objections from the local community.
Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert backed local residents in their campaign to prevent the use of 15 Howard Road, Arundel as accommodation for homeless prisoners released early on tags or suspects remanded on bail.
The house was acquired by ClearSprings (Management) Ltd as part of a national scheme introduced by the Government to reduce overcrowding in prisons.
But ClearSprings has now told Nick Herbert that they will be terminating the lease on the property and that no prisoners or suspects on bail will be moved in.
In an e-mail to Mr Herbert, Juliette Hewitt, National Operations Manager of ClearSprings Management Ltd, says:
"Following our phone conversations of today I am writing to advise that, with due concern for the welfare of our service users, ClearSprings are terminating the lease on the property at 15 Howard Road, Arundel.
"Furthermore we shall not be accommodating any Service Users in this property."
Prisoners or suspects on bail had been due to move into the property this week.
Around 200 local residents had attended a public meeting held at Arundel Football Club on Friday night (18 January) to express their deep concern about the proposal.
The meeting was chaired by Arun District and Arundel Town Councillor Don Ayling. He was joined by Paul Dendle, Arun District Councillor and Colin Heriot, Mayor of Arundel.
Nick Herbert MP addressed the meeting and set out his firm opposition to the proposal, while local councillors expressed their outrage that they had not been told about the plan.
ClearSprings houses prisoners or suspects on bail deemed to be of "low to medium risk" and includes people suspected or convicted of crimes such as burglary, drink-driving, fraud and deception. They do not house people suspected or convicted of arson or sexual offences.
Up to four same-sex prisoners would have been housed at 15 Howard Road, which is in a quiet residential area of Arundel. No supervision is provided on-site. Neighbours are invited to ring a helpline number to report any incidents or concerns.
On Friday (18 January), a Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: "The Ministry of Justice works closely with ClearSprings to ensure there is a comprehensive consultation between themselves and relevant enforcement agencies in any area that they wish to acquire properties.
"The accommodation will allow courts to bail defendants who are currently unable to provide a bail address or who could not be bailed without support. It will also provide accommodation for offenders who are eligible to be released on Home Detention Curfew but lack suitable accommodation.
"This will reduce the loss of liberty and consequent damaging impacts on family life, employment and housing. It will also support the efficient use of public resources, saving on prison places, court escorts and costs of visits to prisons."
Following the public meeting, Nick Herbert contacted ClearSprings Management to relay the strong opposition of the local community to the use of the property as a bail hostel.
The MP also contacted Sussex Police to ascertain the level of policing which would be provided to ensure that the occupants of 15 Howard Road were adequately supervised and to provide reassurance to the local community.
Dozens of residents sent their objections to ClearSprings and to the Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, who is responsible for the policy.
Nick Herbert commented: "A quiet residential area in Arundel was a totally unsuitable place to open a bail hostel and I am glad that ClearSprings has seen sense and decided not to go ahead with it.
"This whole episode has, however, raised very serious questions about a policy which results in such hostels suddenly being opened without any consultation with the local community or their representatives.
"It's totally unacceptable to try and reduce the prison population by stealth in this way."
Mr Herbert added: "I congratulate local councillors Don Ayling and Paul Dendle for their swift response to this issue. I am also grateful to Karen Walker, a local resident, who along with Don Ayling organised the public meeting last Friday."
Notes for Editors
1. For the website of ClearSprings, visit http://www.clearsprings.co.uk/.
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