A north Belfast Pastor has rebuffed claims that he and his church were opening a rehabilitation centre for drug addicts and alcoholics.
Pastor Brian Madden of the Elim church, at Alexandra Park Avenue, was responding to claims in an anonymous ‘poison pen letter’ received by residents of the Castle Park area. A copy was also sent to the DoE Planning Service.
North Belfast Alliance Councillor Billy Webb said he believed the Elim pastor was behind the scheme.
Cllr Webb said: “The decision by Pastor Brian Madden to scrap his plans to open a home for recovering drug addicts and alcoholics in Castle Park, off the Cavehill Road, has been welcomed by many residents in the immediate area. They were concerned about a home of this kind being opened in a residential area close to the school and local school children.”
“I am delighted Pastor Madden has taken their concerns on board, and I am pleased he has new plans for this facility in the Glenarm village.”
However, in response, Pastor Madden refuted any moves to open the centre.
“All these claims of me withdrawing a planning application for a rehab centre are totally false, and they all seem to stem from this letter. I need to make it clear and answer these false claims. First of all, neither I nor my church, lodged an application for a rehabilitation centre in the Castle Park area.”
Mr Madden said a Christian organisation called Victory Outreach was seeking to open and manage a prayer and contemplation house for people, including some who may be recovering from drugs and alcoholic issues. He stressed however, that no planning application was ever needed for such a house and that drugs and alcohol were strictly prohibited in such centres.
“However, Victory Outreach have pulled out of opening a house of this kind here and have chosen Glenarm Village instead. They fully understand the concerns of the community and have taken them on board.”
Referring to claims in the malicious letter that he spoke on radio about opening a centre, the Pastor said his legal team was addressing the issue, but that they faced difficulties in that it had not been signed.