Clear Spring Bail Hostels and Pylons- How the disdvantaged can be ignored

Comment By Bill Cawley

I read a while ago of the good people of Bagnall leastways their elected representatives successfully blocking wind turbines being erected in the vicinity of the village. I would think that given the location of the place that this was an idea location for the turbines and given the feed in tariff for alternative energy production an ideal opportunity for the people of Bagnall to make some money.

But this is not the main purpose of this post.

The success of Bagnall in blocking the application, and I guess that we have used the blight that the siting of a turbine as well as the visual impact on the landscape would have on the community as the basis of their objection, made me recall a similar successful campaign that people of Bagnall carried out over 40 years ago to stop electricity pylons encroaching into the parish. On that occasion a successful alliance which also included the Ramblers’Assocation blocked the proposal and the MEB built the pylons which then were redirected through the Abbey Hulton Council estate where I was bought up.

I can remember the pylons being built in the late 60s and the first casualty- a friend’s pigeon that blundered into the cables. The cables of the pylon also over hung over Carmountside High School where I was a pupil. There was no counter demonstration from the people of Abbey Hulton or their representatives who were not organised unlike the people on the hill.

There have certainly been other victims in the intervening 40 years as electric pylons became a feature of the local. In 2007 a report published by SAGE, a collective of academics, medical charities and representatives of the electricity industry, points to compelling evidence of serious health dangers.

It said that childhood leukaemia is the biggest threat for families living near power lines. A quarter of the 400 children who contract the disease each year die.

The report cites a list of other linked illnesses and conditions including breast and brain cancer, miscarriage and Alzheimer’s disease.

The example of the redirected pylons is perhaps the earliest example I know of the way in which disadvantaged communities are often used as places where social or environmental problems can be discarded. The closure of long stay hospitals in the 80s and 90s often saw hostels and homes located in the poorer areas because attempts to locate social care facilities in more middle class areas inevitably lead to objections and protest.

As a County Councillor I recall the violent objections and absurd comment made by protestors in Tean in 2000 at a proposed 16 bed unit for elderly residents of St Edwards Hospital in Cheddleton, many of the patients’ had dementia. There was much talk of the danger faced by local children by having the facility although as I pointed out the greatest danger faced by the children of Tean was by local speeding motorists.

The way in which authority can ignore disadvantaged communities however continues. Take the issue of Bail Hostels of which there has been no local debate. In 2007 Channel 4 Channel 4 News revealed the location of all 150 bail hostels run by the private company Clearsprings that won the government contract to house low risk offenders on early release from prison or on bail.

Opponents say the hostels – mainly regular houses in ordinary streets – are being opened without consultation with local residents and, unlike probation service hostels, don’t provide 24-hour supervision of their residents. All the hostels were placed in areas where housing costs were low making it cheaper for Clearsprings.

Channel 4 named hostels located in Stoke and Newcastle amongst the 150 hostels.

Now two years on it seems critics have proved right it was revealed that the company’s contract may be terminated.

It comes after failings were identified at a hostel on Teesside where a young man was murdered by another resident.

National Association of Probation Officers official Harry Fletcher told the BBC: “It’s just not on, putting four or five volatile individuals in the same place with no supervision.

“The government has got to go back to the days when people on bail were supervised properly, by experienced and trained staff. It’s as simple as that.

“This has been a nightmare, it’s been a mistake, it needs to be unravelled.”

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