Cocaine Anonymous (CA) has started new weekly sessions in a Crawley shopping parade.
A spokesman said the meetings in the Crime Reduction Initiative’s (CRI) building in Broadfield Barton offer free help for local drug addicts at 7.30pm every Monday.
Crawley borough’s planning committee gave its consent for CRI to use the vacant first floor offices in Pelham House, which is opposite the Imperial pub, last September.
A planning report stated the extension would allow CRI to offer a full service to its users. Medical aspects of the ‘fractured’ service it offered drug addicts, homeless people and people serving community sentences were being delivered at Crawley Hospital, GP clinics and pharmacies.
The decision over the CRI expansion bid was referred to the council’s Development Control Committee after councillor Michael Jones (Lab, Bewbush) objected to the plans.
He raised concerns over an increase in crime which would affect the area’s businesses, residents and the perception of Crawley.
Councillor Brian Quinn (Lab, Broadfield) said before the meeting: “I’m pretty sure it will go through with councillors [on the committee] coming from different parts of Crawley they don’t see what’s happening in Broadfield every day.
“I’ve always been against it and all the residents I’ve spoken to, they don’t really want it here in Broadfield.
“There’s lots of buildings that are empty in the town that would be ideal for it.”
Mr Quinn said the service had a regional catchment area and would be better placed nearer the town centre because of its public transport links.
CRI needed planning permission to use the first floor because only its previous occupier, Addaction, a drug and alcohol treatment provider, had been granted permission for its D1 (non-residential institutions) usage.
The planning report stated measures CRI was taking in response to the concerns meant granting permission was justified.
It stated: “The principle of this proposed D1 use within this neighbourhood centre has been established through the 2001 permission.
“Thus the application relates to the variation of the condition only to allow the use to be operated by CRI and it is not considered that this change in the operator of these services would conflict with the relevant development plan policies.
“Notwithstanding the concerns that have been expressed, the use can be accommodated and managed within this building in a discrete way to support individuals and families with substance misuse issues, providing a needed facility for the wider community of Crawley commissioned by West Sussex County Council, and on this basis it is considered that the benefits would outweigh these concerns and the proposal to vary the condition, to allow the service to be provided by CRI, is acceptable at this location.”
Gina (name changed to protect her anonymity), has been attending CA meetings in Crawley since 2013: “Before coming to CA I was never satisfied with anything. Where ever I was I wanted to be somewhere, else, someone else, with someone else. When I got what I wanted I didn’t want it anymore. Partying stretched from Wednesdays to Sunday and sometimes beyond. I was drinking and using against my own will in spite of strong will power in other areas of my life.
“When I tried stopping on my own I’d always find a trivial reason to start or I would drive myself crazy obsessing about getting some eventually. It was mental and physical torture, I knew it couldn’t go on but everything I tried failed. I remembered times when it was fun, and in spite of countless examples that it wasn’t fun anymore; yet I still persisted- health scares, losing relationships, nothing could keep me away for long. When I went to my first meeting I thought I could still do things my own way, I didn’t want to stop totally, just manage my boyfriend’s using so I wouldn’t keep going overboard. Everyone else was always the problem. When I finally let the new friends I made at CA show me how they got clean, and started doing what they suggested, I finally found freedom from addiction and a new way of living.
“I have been clean and sober 32 months now, and I am happier than I could have ever imagined. I feel like a normal human being, I get my bills paid, I’m honest, I have friends- I still go out dancing until the early hours but I’m actually on the dance floor not sniffing in the toilet or stashing gear so I don’t have to share it! I have real friends and a job, my family speak to me again. I’m so grateful I found CA.”
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