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Council ‘disappointed’ by partial response on proposed offenders centre

THE Leader and senior Cabinet members of the Bridgend County Borough Council have expressed disappointment after receiving an update on proposals from the Ministry of Justice to establish a new Wales Residential Women’s Centre in South Wales.

The HM Prison and Probation Service in Wales and Public Protection Group has confirmed that while it is no longer seeking to include the Atlantic Hotel in Porthcawl as a potential site for the centre, it is still interested in establishing it at Sunnyside House in Bridgend town.

In a letter to the council, the service states:

“Following engagement with a wide range of stakeholders, further assessment of the Atlantic Hotel and consideration of the changes that would be needed to make it suitable for the vulnerable women with whom the Ministry of Justice works, the decision was taken not to go forward with a planning application, and the site is no longer being considered as an option for the residential women’s centre.”

The Council leader Huw David said:

“While I appreciate the fact that the Ministry of Justice has shared our view that the Atlantic Hotel in Porthcawl would be an unsuitable location for their proposed new centre, I am bitterly disappointed that they have not used this opportunity to also discount the Sunnyside House site as well. I previously contacted the Ministry of Justice to object to the proposed siting of the new centre within the local area, arguing that while the authority understands and supports the rationale for establishing such a centre within South Wales, Bridgend County Borough is absolutely the wrong place for it to be located. Not only are we already home to South Wales’ largest prison, but we also feature Wales’ only youth offending institute and medium-security facilities for people with complex mental health needs.

Despite this, the area does not receive the level of additional resource or funding required for delivering the kind of essential support associated with such facilities. We already deal with high-risk safeguarding matters in relation to HMP Parc, Tŷ Liddiard and the Caswell Clinic, and provide a wide range of care and support for inmates at the prison alone. Introducing the Wales Residential Women’s Centre into the county borough would only intensify this at a time when the council has already been forced to cut more than £60m from vital services.

I’ve previously stated that Bridgend County Borough already features more than its fair share of regional and national sites for people with complex needs, and this is still the case. I also fail to see how placing the centre opposite an all-new £23m wellness village and sheltered accommodation will benefit vulnerable residents. Introducing further large numbers of people who require widespread care and support would place considerable additional pressure upon services that are already in place.

It would also have an impact upon primary and secondary care services, community safety and policing. We continue to oppose the notion that Bridgend County Borough should be considered as a suitable venue for this facility, and I will be calling upon the Ministry of Justice to drop Sunnyside House from their plans as well as the Atlantic Hotel.”

Councillor Nicole Burnett, Cabinet Member for Social Services and Early Help added:

“We fully support the rationale for creating a Wales Residential Women’s Centre, but continue to hold the view that Sunnyside House is absolutely the wrong location for it.

Bridgend County Borough has already embraced more than its fair share of such facilities, and placing the centre there would be grossly unfair to residents.

As well as creating further undue strain upon existing resources, it risks being at odds with other ongoing initiatives and partnerships, and we wholeheartedly support calls for siting the centre at a more suitable location which is outside of the county borough.”

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