Basildon offenders hostel move talks at 'early stage'

The probation service in Essex has said it could be some time before a controversial offenders hostel is closed and moved to a new location.

Concerns have been raised by residents about the current premises on the Felmores Estate in Pitsea.

Essex Probation is in talks with the Ministry of Justice and Basildon Council to find a new site.

The service's chief executive, Mary Archer, said the hostel could not be closed until a new site is built.

"We're talking quite a lead in time to find a new building, to make it suitable, to get it up and running and then move," she added.

The hostel, which opened in 1978, houses up to 20 people at a time. They have either been released from jail on licence or are on bail.

'Provision in Essex'

Campaigners against it say the fact some are sex offenders poses a danger to the community.

Dan Freeman, 24, was this week given an indeterminate prison sentence with a minimum of five years for sexually assaulting a young boy while staying at the hostel in April.

Leanne Clarke, who lives near the hostel, said: "There are sex offenders in that hostel at the moment. It's wrong.

"They should keep them away from our children and shut the place down."

Mrs Archer said she understood why people would not want offenders living next door to them, but said it was a necessary part of their work.

She said: "It has to be somewhere where we can carry on monitoring, but also where we can get these people reintegrated."

Mrs Archer added that any alternative location could be elsewhere in the county and not necessarily Basildon.

She said: "We're not tied to the location, but we must have this provision in Essex.

"It's not just a Basildon problem, it is across Essex that we actually need to look at possible locations, which will give us more opportunities to find somewhere suitable."

In a statement, Basildon councillor Andrew Baggott, cabinet member for community and landlord services, said: "We are still liaising with the Probation Services regularly regarding Felmores Bail Hostel to seek a resolution."

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