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Criticism over comments as low secure unit plan rejected – “There is a railway line. Right by the side of it”

A week after Lead Member Joan Lowe spoke of how Wrexham Councillors should act as responsible ‘corporate parents’, some comments over mental health patients by those who sit alongside her in the administration have been criticised.

Last night the planning committee was considering an application to build a low secure unit and housing development in Gwersyllt, that was in the end refused.

Two councillors made comments regarding mental health, and a third has been criticised for implying that those who would complete treatment would not be welcome in the area.

Reaction included branding the comments as ‘shameful’ and ‘shocking’, whereas others said “The way some of the Councillors described mental health patients is disgraceful”, and “Stigma & ignorance are alive and well.”

Our report last night gave some quotes highlighting the comments, however below are fuller comments with the relevant links to the council webcasts.

Cllr Barrie Warburton spoke of his concerns of the clients in the low secure unit could oversee playgrounds and playing fields, however the comment that created the biggest reaction was a suggestive remark regarding the proximity of the proposed unit to the railway line.

Cllr Warburton said: “Right near the planning plot for the er, what is it called, the mental health unit, there is a railway line. Right by the side of it.”

At this point Cllr Warburton pauses for a while and grimaces, adding: “I don’t think I need to say anymore about that one.”

The councillor then looked around the room even more – You can view the section above 14mins 30 seconds into the webcast on this link.

Cllr Paul Pemberton’s comments have also been highlighted, who voiced his concerns on the location of the proposed development: “Much was made about the location close to schools etc I note that the speaker earlier on said there had been no drugs misuse etc, but there will be schizophrenics there, schizophrenics next to a school if that is a planning consideration or not, in my eyes it certainly should be.

“I find it difficult to swallow that people are telling us we should accept that.”

Cllr Graham Rogers prefaced his comments by saying there were people out there that needed help, and if the planning was not granted for facility he thought the debate would be re-run as the facility would be sited elsewhere.

Cllr Rogers suggested a planning condition that would mean: “Once the person, or persons, have received their treatment they are returned back to their own surroundings”, adding that he felt if that was not included “We could end up with more trouble on our hands.”

However he was told that such a condition would be ‘inappropriate’ and would ‘not meet the test of planning conditions’.

You can watch Cllr Rogers make his point on the Council webcast here.

As we wrote last night, Cllr Frank Hemmings was the only committee member who challenged remarks made, saying: “Some are levelling these people as dangerous and possible criminals. They are people who need help and support, we should not assume all are dangerous to children, we should be helping these people.”

This morning we asked Council Leader Mark Pritchard, who attended a brief section of the meeting and watched other sections via the webcasting, about the comments and if a deeper understanding or at least better phrasing was required from some councillors.

Cllr Pritchard who was clearly unhappy with some of the the comments made told us, “What we have to remember is elected members and the planning process is impartial from this council. A decision has to be made on solely planning grounds alone. Everybody is entitled to freedom of speech, and are allowed to speak.”

“I am going to say this as I think I have to, I was there for a certain amount of time and I was surprised by some of the comments.”

Top pic: Cllr Warburton.

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