SDLP Foyle MP Mark Durkan has said he shares the “real depth of misgivings” of residents in Bishop Street and the surrounding area regarding a proposed 24-bed Alcohol dependency unit at the former Nazareth House site in Derry.
Mr Durkan, who attended this week’s meeting over the proposed development, said the issue highlights the compelling case for investing in wider service infrastructure for people with alcohol or other dependencies in Derry (including a detox unit) and is calling for a more joined-up cross border approach to address the problem.
He said: “The residents meeting convened by Oaklee Trinity reflected the real depth of misgivings in the local community about the residential alcohol dependency unit as part of the proposed development for the Nazareth House site.
“Residents reflected a strength of argument about the unsuitability of a facility of that kind on a busy street close to schools in the midst of a close neighbourhood and in proximity to other alcohol-related services which can have neighbourhood impacts.
“Residents were able to cite some existing experiences as reasons why they could not rely on the sort of assurances being offered about the management, profile and impact of such a scale of a unit in that location.
“It also seems to me that questions arise as to whether the intended client group for the unit with their own needs and vulnerabilities would be best accommodated on a street so busy with school-run traffic etc.
“There is also the question of how well the proposed unit would sit alongside the plan to use the listed building to accommodate older people and the plan for new social housing to be built in the neighbouring Nazareth House grounds.
“For all these reasons I believe that the balance and mix of these proposals will need to be reconfigured to ensure the optimum use of such a significant site.
“In terms of the need for more facilities and services to help in respect of alcohol and other dependencies, the wider city case for investing in service infrastructure including a detox unit is compelling.
“There is also the obvious need for a more joined-up cross border approach so that the quality of service in a facility like Whiteoaks can be sensibly commissioned for people who live in Derry and the North.
“There is also the need for supported residential services as part of a longer term support infrastructure but their scale and location will need sensitive planning.”