The plans by Kingdomway Trust are to provide a project called 'The Bridge' in which six men, who are part way through their rehabilitation process will be given the opportunity to prepare for a fully independent life and you can read more about their aims and ambitions by clicking this link to their website: http://kingdomwaytrust.org/projects/house/
On Monday evening, the 10th March, local resident, Kevin Balsdon arranged a public meeting for local residents and concerned individuals to come along and hear about Kingdomway Trust's plans and to have the opportunity to ask questions about the proposals. The meeting was well run and it was clear that the organisers have very sincere intentions, intentions which I think most people would wish them well with in the hope that the individuals who might use the project, are able to complete their rehabilitation and change the course of their lives for the better.
I attended in my capacity of a father to my ten year old daughter and as a local Councillor representing Sovereign Harbour and Langney Point. Whilst Pevensey & Westham Primary School is located in the neighbouring Pevensey & Westham area, I and many of the people I represent in Sovereign Harbour and the surrounding area have the privilege of contributing to village life through the education and afterschool activities that our children participate in at this traditional village Church school.
A number of concerning points came to light during the public questions. Whilst the organisers have participated in the successful night shelter scheme in Eastbourne, where churches take it turns to provide a rotational single night's shelter for homeless people from the coldest of the winter weather, this ambitious project will be the first it has undertaken on a continuous basis and it is intended that residents will remain in the house for up to two years until rehabilitation is complete. Furthermore whilst they have a preferred selection criteria, the organisers were unable to guarantee residents that those who apply to be part of the project would A) not have a criminal record or B) not be on the register of sex offenders and despite these potential and serious risks, 24 hour supervision is only likely to be provided for the first six months with a team of volunteers providing on call support thereafter.
I addressed the meeting on behalf of parents of pupils to say that whilst I didn't doubt the sincerity of the organisers' intentions, with so many young, vulnerable and impressionable young people within close proximity of the intended location of the house, this was the wrong location to be trialling such an ambitious project. Furthermore I have written to Wealden District Council who will be considering if the application is legal by the 8th April and I have also written to the Associate Head Teacher of Pevensey & Westham Primary School to encourage him to do the same.
At this stage, due to the size of the plan, Wealden District Council only have to consider if the plan is a legal application and if they do that, no formal public consultation need take place and the project will become a reality with the very real risks that entails. If the council can be convinced of the danger, they could ensure that the plan has to go before a full planning committee and face the level of scrutiny it warrants. If you would like to make your views known, you should write to:
The Head of Planning & Building Control
Wealden District Council