A PLAN for a controversial project to convert a Weymouth guest house into a drug and alcohol rehab centre has now been lodged.

Residents are invited to give their views on a planning application to convert 22 Abbotsbury Road into the Weymouth Recovery Hub.

Dorset County Council, which has submitted the change of use application and will ultimately decide it, says there is a definite need for the facility as the rates of drug use in Weymouth are double that in the county as a whole, and more than 40 per cent of those who currently access treatment in Dorset live in Weymouth and Portland.

The hub would support local people recovering from problems with alcohol and other drugs.

DCC will invest a Public Health grant of more than £500,000 to fund the project.

The consultation period on the change of use application is due to end on October 13, with the application considered by the county council's Regulatory Committee in due course.

More than 700 people have signed a petition opposing the plan. It was handed over to Dorset County Council at a full council meeting in July.

At the time, residents Sally Maslin and Andreas Scheffler raised concerns over the proposed location of the hub.

They said bringing in more long-term substance users to an area already trying to deal with an ongoing problem could have a negative impact on the progress that has been made.

Mr Scheffler said Westham residents weren't generally opposed to a rehab facility and recognise there is a need - the objection is to the "inappropriate siting of this in Abbotsbury Road, a busy, built-up area containing a number of guest houses, local business as well as many residents."

Cllr Steve Butler, Dorset County Council Cabinet member for safeguarding, said: “We want to set up a Recovery Hub in Weymouth to help address the town’s long-standing issues with alcohol and other drugs.

"We’re able to invest over £500,000 in the borough, for the benefit of Weymouth residents, at a time when other funding is being cut.

"The focus would be on helping people stay well so they can return to education, voluntary work or paid employment."

He added: “After extensive research of available properties, 22 Abbotsbury Road was chosen as it offers the best balance between a central location accessible on foot or by public transport, the right amount of space inside and outside the building, and affordability.

"We understand that some local people are not in favour of the property we’ve chosen, concerned that the Hub would be too close to an off-licence and pharmacy, but the reality is that many of us live where both alcohol and other drugs are easily accessible, and people need to learn to stay well in their local community.

"There is strong evidence that treating people where they live works.

“I would urge local people to read through the online planning application and accompanying information – it sets out in more detail why we believe there’s a need for the centre, and why we’ve chosen this particular location.”

To comment on the plan click here 

Explaining why DCC was deciding the plan and not the local planning authority, a spokesman said: "The county council deals with applications for a county purpose in their area.

"Under Regulation 3 of the Town and Country Planning Regulations 1992, an application for development of any land by an interested planning authority or by an interested planning authority jointly with any other person, shall be determined by the authority concerned, unless the application is referred to the Secretary of State.

"In this case the application is being made by Dorset County Council in its capacity as commissioner of healthcare, for a facility for residents in the Dorset County Council area."