Drug clinic plan gazumped by worried village - 1 March 97

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Drug clinic plan gazumped by worried village - 1 March 97
The Independent, 1 March 1997

Residents of a tiny North Yorkshire village were so horrified at plans to open a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre in their midst that they raised more than 100,000 in three days to buy the property themselves.

Villagers in Burton Leonard set about raising the cash after hearing that contracts were about to be exchanged on the Crown House nursing home on the village green.

The charity Addiction Recovery Training Service planned to turn the whitewashed property, which is opposite the village primary school, into a centre for 16 former addicts.

But after objections to planners failed, the villagers hastily organised a meeting at which they pledged to go without luxuries and hand over their savings in a last-minute attempt to stop the plans.

Within three days more than 100,000 had been pledged by 50 families in the village, which has a population of 473. They immediately made an offer, which is now being considered, and if it is accepted they hope to exchange contracts by the beginning of next week.

The owner of the village post office, Gerlinde Godber, said: 'This is a very quiet village and we were concerned for the safety of the children and everyone else. It was never Not In My Back Yard - it was just not the ideal spot for it.

'We started raising the money on Sunday and we were in a position to make an offer on Tuesday. It was incredible.

'We had to move rapidly and the whole village pulled together. I'm not surprised we made it. I'm proud to be able to live here.'

The villagers plan to sell the property if they outbid the charity, which had been due to exchange contracts yesterday.

A spokesman for the charity, Kenneth Eckersley, said he had written to the village committee promising to back out of the deal if they found another buyer and pay the charity's costs, which amount to several thousand pounds. He said: 'It's not my intention or the intention of the charity to upset people anywhere - we don't want to frighten ladies or worry young mothers. I find the situation sad but at the same time I can't blame the villagers they're as fearful of the problem as anybody else. People do not understand our business.

'They hear the word drugs and they get very fearful because drugs is the worst problem in our society today. But it's a problem that has to be tackled somewhere.'

Mr Eckersley said that the charity, which is based in Dover, was already looking at other properties in Yorkshire.

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