CHURCH leaders have met with council chiefs in a bid to allay fears over a controversial project to house ex-prisoners in Hyndburn.
A meeting was held at the council's headquarters, Scaitcliffe House, between members of Oswaldtwistle Community Church and councillors to discuss the scheme, dubbed Project Restore.
And church leaders confirmed that some of the people they were aiming to help were battling drug addiction.
The meeting was called after concerns were raised by Councillor Doug Hayes who feared Hyndburn was becoming a "dumping ground" for ex-offenders.
Allaying his fears, project manager Dave Greaves said: "We don't work with rapists or paedophiles as we are not equipped to tackle those issues. We work with people who have led addictive lifestyles which can include substance misuse.
"The people we work with must have been drug-free for a minimum of six months. On the project, we give them a personal development plan, which gives them objectives to work towards. The people we work with are all based in this area.
"Imagine if there was no Project Restore. The people we deal with would still be here anyway as they have chosen to live here. We are another service to try to stop people from re-offending."
He said those on the programme were given mobile phones and a list of contacts to ring if they needed support at any time.
Church leader Brian Jackson said: "The people who are on the scheme are on voluntarily. Dozens of people already come to Hyndburn after their release who are not on the project. They have no restrictions on them other than the probation service."
He said that the church would not be responsible for housing the ex-offenders as it did not operate as a social landlord.
The scheme will take former inmates of HMP Lancaster Castle and Wymott Prison in Preston.
Councillor Hayes said: "The church's argument is that the ex-offenders would come back to Hyndburn anyway. But they will not be supervised all the time and this is what really bothers me.
"Also, where will it stop? During the meeting, they were not able to answer a question which was raised about how many people will be involved. I am still concerned about the scheme."