Concern over potential ‘ex-offenders centre’ in Wroot

High Street, Wroot is subject to plans for a prisoner's rehabilitation centre. Picture: Andrew Roe
High Street, Wroot is subject to plans for a prisoner's rehabilitation centre. Picture: Andrew Roe

Proposals for a controversial ‘Transition House’ at which former criminals could be taught reading and writing skills have sparked protests in an Isle village.

The Cascade Foundation – a charity which works to help rehabilitate offenders – has revealed they are looking at potentially opening a facility in High Street, Wroot, which may include delivering educational programmes for ex-offenders.

The move has sparked outrage from residents that serious criminals – such as rapists and paedophiles – could be among those using the facility.

Charity bosses hit back this week. They denied claims that service users would be a danger to the community.

Phil Bayes, 67, chairman of Wroot Parish Council, said: “We choose to live out of the way and don’t see why we should have facilities like this on our doorstep.

“Everyone is concerned that ex-prisoners are going to be on our streets.”

Another resident, a father-of-two, who asked not to be named, added: “We are all very concerned.

“Wroot is a small village and something like this could have a big impact. We don’t want former prisoners on our streets. People fear they could pose a danger.”

Retired school teacher Christine Jenkins, 72, of High Street, Wroot, added: “People are alarmed and if it does happen, then any ex-offenders need to be properly supervised.”

The Essex-based foundation currently works at Doncaster’s Marshgate Prison to help inmates with disabilities such as dyslexia, dyspraxia and people who have suffered head injuries.

In an email, Jacquie Buttriss, chair of trustees, said: “I do not understand what all this is about.”

However in an earlier phone interview, she confirmed the award-winning foundation has looked at opening a ‘Transition House’ or ‘Transition Centre’ centre in the village.

She accepted that students could include former criminals but wanted to make sure residents understood they would not take in any “convicted rapists, paedophiles or other such serious ex-offenders.”

She told the Bells: “It could well be ex-offenders, the same as it could be men, woman and people from all different backgrounds.

“We haven’t decided the specifics yet. But it certainly wouldn’t be current prisoners on day release and we are not seeking referrals from local prisons.

“The centre would definitely be for people with learning difficulties, those who suffer from dyslexia in particular, and would involve delivering educational programmes.

“It would be for a few people and a very low key project,” she explained.

“Our learners would be mainly from the local community, probably Doncaster, and some may be under the age of 16. Child protection and safeguarding would be paramount.”

She added the charity has had early stage discussions about using a private property in High Street for one of their bases.

However, there are no funds available to make the move happen until next year at the very earliest.

Mrs Buttriss said the charity was looking at other undisclosed sites – one of which was in Doncaster – and added the centre could eventually be opened “anywhere in South Yorkshire or North Lincolnshire.”

She said they have held discussions with council planning chiefs who said the charity would not need to seek planning permission for a change of use.

In an unusual twist, villagers had suggested the proposed centre could be based at the empty former home of Maurice Turrall, who fled his property in 2008 and was wanted by police in connection with a £1m drugs and money laundering operation.

The Serious Organised Crime Agency was granted a civil recovery order last year to seize his assets.

However, the charity distanced themselves from the claims and said they had “never heard” of Mr Turrall.

In relation to concerns about drug addicts potentially using the centre, Mrs Buttriss said she had ‘no clue’ where such allegations came from.

Mrs Buttriss added: “We are a very open organisation and would be happy to discuss with residents who have concerns.”

Parish councillors were due to hold an extraordinary meeting to discuss the matter at Wroot Village Hall yesterday evening.

Representatives from the Cascade Foundation are due to be invited to the next parish council meeting in the village hall on Tuesday, September 2, from 7pm. The public can also attend.

Mrs Buttriss said Jackie Hewitt-Main, founder and project leader of the charity, who lives in Wroot, was away on holiday and would not be available to attend a public meeting.