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Tensions boil over at public meeting on Coseley hostel plans

By Luke Bartlett | Coseley | News | Published:

More than 100 people packed out a community centre to grill charity bosses over controversial plans to turn a former care home into a 65-bedroom hostel for men.

Concerned residents angry about plans address the meeting

Tempers flared at an over-capacity Summerhill Community Centre in Coseley where residents questioned charity Expectation UK’s application to transform the site of New Bridge House in Bayer Street, Coseley.

Concerns were raised over the location of the proposed development and the types of resident it would house if plans were approved by Dudley Council.

It was standing room only with many forced to watch the meeting from outside

As well as the residents, West Midlands Police has also previously raised concerns about the proposed hostel.

Addressing the charity representatives, resident Alison Taylor said: “Are any of you people going to be held responsible if there are sex offenders, drug addicts, alcoholics roaming the street from nine o’clock in the morning until five at night?

“The crime figures do not lie. Would you want to be a victim of a sex offender and have your home broken into? No.”

People questioning Marc Blanchette during the meeting

Expectations UK’s chair of trustees Marc Blanchette replied: “I can only reiterate again that we do not take in sex offenders, we do not take in paedophiles, we do not take in arsonists, we have a rigorous assessment process.”

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But Mr Blanchette brought the meeting to an abrupt end when he said the crowd were not hearing him out, cutting it short by 25 minutes.

Speaking after the meeting Coseley East Councillor Susan Ridney said: “I wanted to hear what people had got to say. I think he [Marc] did not address the questions that were very serious questions.

“There was a lot of hysteria, and I can understand not answering some of that, but there were also quite serious questions within some of that that deserve an answer and he did not give it.

Marc Blanchette taking questions

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“I think they [Expectations UK] will push ahead with it. I did speak with the planning officers this week and they said if it goes for approval it is unlikely to come to planning before October.

“If they do go for approval people will just be up in arms.”

Expectations UK has been contacted for a comment after Monday night’s meeting.

Following the meeting, Coseley Focus group spokesperson Tony Sheldon said the meeting had not gone to plan.

People outside who could not get into the meeting

He said: “The meeting did not go how I wanted it to go.

“Although it did not go as well as we expected at least it showed the community getting together and how prepared they are to fight against Dudley Council now.

“The council must have known what the plans were for this when they sold it so it looks as though we have another fight on our hands when we get this up at the council offices.”

Resident Alison Taylor asking questions

Mr Sheldon also addressed the aftermath of the meeting, in which residents continued to get heated with charity representatives, demanding answers to their questions. Mr Sheldon said: “We know what the feeling is like around here and everybody was worked up but there was no need for anything like that. That is not what we are about.”

It comes as more than 12,000 people tuned in to a live stream of the meeting, broadcast on Facebook, as well as the more than 100 who attended in person.

Luke Bartlett

By Luke Bartlett
Trainee Reporter - @lbartlett_star

Trainee Express & Star reporter covering Dudley and Sandwell. Get in touch on 01902 319445 or via luke.bartlett@expressandstar.co.uk.

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