HEALTH bosses have denied that a new drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre in Avenue Parade, Accrington, is being railroaded through despite huge public opposition.
Two hundred residents have already signed a petition against the plan to convert the former Peel House Medical Centre.
And now a survey of estate agents suggests the centre could cause house prices in the Elevate housing regeneration area to plummet.
At a recent meeting of the Peel House Steering Group, which was not open to the media, East Lancashire Primary Care Trust officials were asked if the centre was a done deal.
Labour group leader and Peel ward councillor Graham Jones claimed this week: "They’re not for shifting. They think they’re saving the planet and it’s just incredible to listen to them speak.
"They have no idea what’s going on in the neighbourhood, no idea about the area they’re putting this in and no idea about what other agencies are doing to make the area better."
Councillor Jones asked several Accrington estate agents how the plans would affect the housing market.
All the respondents stated that the new centre could lead to a fall in house sales and a slump in prices of between six and 10 per cent.
Councillor Jones said: "Every estate agent says this is going to have a huge negative impact."
The branch manager of one Accrington estate agent said: "When you’ve got something like this rehab centre there’s always the potential for house prices to fall, particularly the ones that are the closest to it.
"What you might find is that you get more buy-to-let investors in the area, which can mean a lot more rented properties and have a big negative effect on the area."
Protest leader Dr John Barker, of Plantation Street, claimed: "After much pressuring the PCT has admitted it’s going ahead regardless of residents’ concerns. I think it’s disgusting. Everything is wrong about it."
In a statement to the Observer, the PCT denied that any jobs had been filled or refurbishment contracts awarded and says it has scheduled a public meeting with residents for 13 November at 7pm at Scaitcliffe House, Accrington.
Project manager John Robinson said: "NHS East Lancashire is, of course, concerned about the unpopularity of our plans but is keen to work with local residents to allay their concerns and ensure that they are not adversely affected by the centre opening.
"The petition that has been sent to us is currently being considered by board members within the Trust and a response will be issued in due course. Leaflets are currently being prepared and delivered."
He added that the centre would help local people access a local service, provide a free confidential service to friends and relatives of substance abusers and help reduce "loitering, anti-social behaviour and drug and alcohol-related crime".