Brockley's drug rehab centre: Cllr Johnson says "bring it on"

Cllr Johnson writes:

I’ve been proud to represent Brockley residents this past decade. I would never knowingly support any project that would worsen the quality of life for Brockley residents. So when some residents started to raise concerns about the siting of a proposed Drug & Alcohol Treatment Centre in Brockley Cross I felt I had a duty to find out more before coming to a conclusion. 

Certainly, I don’t want to see anything that adds to anti-social behaviour problems in the ward. That’s why I worked with the local police and council officers to get a problem off-licence banned from serving alcohol, after many years of being a nightmare for local residents. That’s also why I worked successfully with residents to get the licensing conditions changed for the old Rosemary Branch/Gourmet Bar on Lewisham Way. It’s now a lovely well-run pub.

However, the more I have found out about the Drug & Alcohol Treatment Centre proposed for Shardeloes Road, the more convinced I am that such a facility is desperately needed and that Brockley has nothing whatsoever to fear from it. Bearing in mind the concerns of some residents, I arranged to visit a similar centre, run by the same charitable organisation in Woolwich. Like Woolwich, the Brockley Centre would only deal with scheduled appointments. It’s not a drop-in centre and it won’t be dispensing drugs on the premises. Any substitute drugs will continue to be dispensed from local pharmacies as they have been for many, many years. When I visited the Woolwich centre I found a professional, friendly and well-run service. People don’t hang around outside and it’s not a magnet for drug dealers or anti-social behaviour. The centre is limited to 15-30 appointments per day as the Brockley one would be. The facility is a good neighbour to the residents and local businesses in Woolwich and a similar facility can be a good neighbour to us here in Brockley, too.

I know that some residents have questioned why such a service should be in Brockley. The arguments have come in two forms. Some have argued that drugs are not really a problem in Brockley and such a service would be better located in New Cross or Deptford. On the other hand, others have argued that drugs are already a problem in Brockley and that this treatment centre would make things even worse. Those contradictory arguments cannot both be right – but in fact neither conveys an accurate picture. We do already have Brockley residents seeking treatment who would use this facility. It’s not the sort of place people want to trek half way across the borough to - most service users tend to walk or catch the bus to centres like this. Furthermore, all the evidence is that far from attracting drug dealers into the area such a service is likely to repel them. If you are a drug dealer, drug rehabilitation centres are not a good place for business and you tend to avoid them.

If, like me, you hate the damage that drug and alcohol misuse can do to individuals and to society, then surely we need more facilities like this. I know some people are concerned Brockley Cross is a residential area. But in a densely populated city like London, I doubt there is a single street that’s not close to at least some homes and businesses. My visit to Woolwich showed that a facility like this can be a good neighbour. And surely, we need to commend people who want to turn their lives around and end their addictions rather than demonising them and being frightened of them. I am convinced that this is an excellent service that’s desperately needed locally and I am also convinced that Brockley Cross is a suitable location for it.

Cllr Darren Johnson
Green Party Councillor for Brockley Ward