‘We want public to support rehab centre’

Joanne Hulme, at Slack Top Centre, Heptonstall, which may become an adult rehab centre
Joanne Hulme, at Slack Top Centre, Heptonstall, which may become an adult rehab centre

Ambitious £250,000 plans have been announced to convert a former chapel in to a residential rehabilitation centre for substance abusers.

The proposals for the Slack Top Centre (also known as the Mount Zion Baptist Chapel or Slack Chapel), Heptonstall, have been put forward by the Leeds-based New Hope charity, in partnership with the Heptonstall Slack Cultural Trust.

For the plans to move forward the partnership would have to seek change of use from Calderdale Council’s planning department.

But before they put in a planning application, the partnership wants to consult with residents, business owners and politicians to gauge the local mood. They have therefore called an open meeting at Colden Primary School from 7.30pm on Wednesday, April 9, where they will revel more details about the plan and answer any questions or concerns.

And Alistair Park, who has been a director of New Hope for 14 years, said they will only go ahead with the plan if they have the support of the village.

Mr Park said: “What we’re going to do is give an overview of Slack Top Centre; where it is at the moment; the proposed partnership with the trust; what we would like to do with the building; and what our vision is. Then after that we will gauge the mood of the people there - whether there are objections or not, and take it from there whether to go for change of use.

“The feedback we have got so far has been very positive. We have even got a couple of letters from people up there which are really encouraging.”

Mr Park, who will live at the centre with his wife Yvette said that any residents at the centre would be fully detoxed before they arrive and would work to a structured recovery programme. There would be no more than eight residents at any one time, staying for a three month period, and Mr Park and his wife would be supported by voluntary staff. Residents, who will be the subject of extensive background checks, will undertake work in the community and anyone caught breaking the centre’s strict code of conduct will be sent home immediately.

The cultural trust, which has responsibility for the Grade II listed building, said the proposals meet its deed which is to “provide low cost temporary accommodation for people of limited means, encouraging care and concern for the countryside, and for the promotion of the Christian faith”.

Trustee Joanne Hulmes said if planning permission was granted then they would have to undertake a three-phase redevelopment project, with the aim of opening the rehabilitation centre in 2015.

Phase one would involve the core structure - windows, heating and electrics, phase two would be about developing rooms and getting the centre up and running, and phase three would involve increasing the roof space to make accommodation for the workers.

Mrs Hulme said: “I would be quite disappointed if local people couldn’t see the experience Alistair and Yvette bring in how to deal with people with these needs. I’m fairly optimistic this shouldn’t be an issue. Obviously when people hear addicts and rehab they start to worry and I can understand that but that’s why we’re having the open meeting so people can see what the centre will do.”

Slack Top Centre on Widdop Road, was last used as a self-catering hostel.

Anyone who can’t attend the meeting can email joannehulmestc@yahoo.co.uk