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Victory in battle to shut hostel; Families' toast to 'people power'.

Byline: By Chris Henwood

CAMPAIGNING Smethwick families were celebrating today after hearing a bail hostel which opened in their quiet cul-de-sac without their knowledge is to close on Government orders.

Around 30 delighted residents in Crawford Avenue have been told that "people power" had forced the closure of the controversial hostel.

They were given the news that Justice Secretary Jack Straw had ordered its closure at a meeting with councillors and officials last night Campaigners claimed the area had been hit with a rise in the number of beggars, people asking for alcohol, fighting and police being called out to the street, since private company Clearsprings opened the hostel on May 14 for the Ministry of Justice.

Crawford Avenue mum-of-two Lynne Butler was at the meeting, which took place in Smethwick's Harry Mitchell Liesure Centre.

She said: "Clearsprings have got to cease business by the end of this year and have promised not to put any more people in there for the rest of the year - and it's gone very quiet in the last week."

Smethwick councillors Linda Horton and Keith Davies were also at the Harry Mitchell Leisure Centre meeting, along with council officer Paul Wright and members of the Sandwell local authority's antisocial team.

"It's about working together," said councillor Davies.

"Local residents initially thought councillors were aware of the situation, but the bail hostel was news to us.

"These facilities are essential, but they have to be in the right area - Crawford Avenue was unsuitable."

The company and officers from the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) informed local councillors at a Sandwell Council meeting on Wednesday that the facility would be shutting down.
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Nov 21, 2008
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