A former Dundee City Council housing convener has urged Coldside residents to lobby councillors over plans to create a women’s custody unit in the Hilltown.
The Scottish Prison Service revealed last month its preferred site for the Community Custody Unit is the site of Our Lady’s RC Primary School, which will become vacant when pupils move to the new Coldside Community Campus on Alexander Street.
The Hilltown unit will provide accommodation for a female prisoners who have been assessed as suitable for serving part of their sentence closer to the community.
It is hoped the new units will reduce the risk of re-offending by maintaining the women’s links with their communities and families.
A number of Coldside residents have campaigned against the plan and say the area is unsuitable, in part due to the easy availability of drugs in the area.
Former SNP housing convener Jimmy Black lives nearby and said while he retains an open mind about the proposal, residents should lobby their councillors about it now.
Mr Black said he thinks the CCU is a “sound idea” in principle but wants more information from the SPS about how it will actually operate.
He said: “Before I give my support to the new CCU, I want to know that it will be secure; that it will be well staffed; that drug dealers will not get near the women inside; that visitors will be well controlled; that there will be enough parking.
“Will the children in the school be able to see into the CCU?
“It would help to have an idea of how big it will be and what it will look like. I think the SPS will have good answers to all those questions, but I haven’t heard them yet.”
Mr Black added that any changes to the site Our Lady’s will have to be approved by Dundee City Council’s planning committee, where councillors have a free vote.
But he said both the Community Safety and Public Protection and City Development committees will also have influence over the development and that all four of Coldside’s ward councillors – SNP members Mark Flynn and Anne Rendall and Labour’s George McIrvine and Helen Wright – sit on these committees.
He said: “They all hold surgeries, they can all be lobbied.
“Both of these committees are ‘whipped’, that means the political groups will decide weeks in advance, in private, how they are going to vote on the sale of Our Lady’s.
“Generally they don’t change their minds.
“That’s why it’s important to lobby councillors early, before they get their instructions.
“Local residents do have some opportunities to put their views; and councillors do have opportunities to support, reshape or reject this proposal.”