Uproar over plan to house ex-prisoners

Milton Street in Fleetwood
Milton Street in Fleetwood

Fleetwood residents are up in arms about plans by a charity to relocate five ex-offenders into a terraced house on a quiet residential street.

Langley House Trust has acquired a property on Milton Street and plans to use it to help rehabilitate former prisoners on license, with the residents expected to move in within weeks.

Councillor Terry Rogers.

Councillor Terry Rogers.

Worried residents have voiced fears about the kind of ex-criminals who may come to live at the house, with concerns that some of the offences could be serious.

They are also angry that residents weren’t informed about the move and there is frustration that Fleetwood is being targeted for such residences because house prices are cheap.

Langley House now has four such properties in the town, but there are none in other parts of Wyre.

A group of residents called the Milton Street Residents Association have set up an online petition which has so far attracted 2,072 signataries in just a few days.

Fleetwood MP Cat Smith

Fleetwood MP Cat Smith

One of the residents, who does not wish to be named for fear of reprisals, said: “We are not against the rehabilitation of prisoners but we do not think this is the right location.”

Langley House, a Christian organisation based in Oxfordshire, has sought to calm residents’ fears and says none of the former prisoners are classed as high risk and they have been deemed safe by police.

However, Coun Terry Rogers, Pharos ward councillor for Fleetwood Town Council, blasted: “It is high time that enough is enough.

“The attitude seems to be that these kind of developments are alright for Fleetwood but not for anywhere else in Wyre. This has to stop.

“Of course prisoners need to be rehabilitated but it cannot be right that a town like Fleetwood is being targeted with several of these properties just because house prices are cheep.

“This is a deprived community already, with issues over employment and health, and with four of these properties we will have almost 20 ex-prisoners putting extra pressure on services.

“The local councils are trying hard to regenerate Fleetwood, which has had its own problems, and this is not going to help the town.

“A lot of people here are already struggling to get jobs, there are few opportunities here, so why do they think this is a suitable place to rehabilitate people who don’t even come from Fleetwood.

“Only a few of these people will actually be from this town.”

A Milton Street resident said: “This is a nice quiet neighbourhood. We look out for each other.

“If just one person who comes here is a bad apple, or if they have a criminal friend coming to visit them, we could have real problems.

“There is a school nearby and a Mencap home with vulnerable people.

“Communities like this are very fragile and can easily be ruined.”

Another resident said: “It could have a detrimental effect on our houses prices.

“We only found out about this by sheer luck. No one actually told us it was happening.”

The charity’s Fleetwood properties are at Warrenhurst Road, Park Avenue, Shakespeare Road and now Milton Street.

Representatives from Langley House are due to meet residents later this month.

Samantha Waterton, communications manager for Langley House Trust, said: “We have no plans to open any more properties in Fleetwood, so people should not worry that we are going to flood the town.

“Two of our properties, at Park Avenue and Warrenhurst Road, have been in the town for 10 years and have done really good work. Once the residents have been there for 18 months, with support and supervision, they will move on to the other addresses and have more independence. But they are not just left to their own devices.

“Since we opened the first properties, we have opened just two in a decade, so that is not a huge number. We have 120 beds nationally.

“All of the residents involved have served their time and we are simply trying to help rehabilitate them and help them move away from offending.

“The statistics for prisoners re-offending is on average 45%. With our support, our residents’ re-offending rate is down to an average of just 2.6%.

“I cannot say exactly what kind of they have committed but none of them are high risk offenders and we are very careful about the people we house in our properties, liaising with both the police and probation services.”

The Milton Street campaigners have been in touch with Fleetwood MP Cat Smith, hoping she can intervene.

Ms Smith says she has looked into the scheme and believes it will be well managed.

She said: “The location of the property is a factor that will always be taken into consideration when considering risk - no offer of accommodation will be made to those who present a high risk to the public, or indeed those whose needs are such that the Milton St accommodation is unsuitable to meet those needs.

“Langley House Trust have been clear with me that their priority will always be public safety, and to work safely and positively within communities.

“I am encouraged by the Trusts’ commitment and continued integration in our town, supporting people in our community to make positive changes and break the cycle of offending.”