WORRIED residents are to petition council planners over their concerns about proposals to turn a vacant office building into a rehab unit for mental health patients.

More than 20 met their local Wensley Fold ward councillor Quesir Mahmood over the scheme to turn Oakfield House in Preston New Road, Blackburn, into a halfway house for patients coming out of secure psychiatric services.

ASC Healthcare, which runs an autism treatment centre in Bolton, wants to accommodate 30 men and women in a permanently-staffed unit in the former solicitors’ offices.

But its application to Blackburn with Darwen Council for planning permission has worried residents who now plan to register objections with the borough planning committee.

Preston New Road resident Zafar Iqbal said: “There are a lot of people very concerned about this proposal.

“This is a residential area opposite Corporation Park, with two nurseries and Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School nearby.

“I have spoken to a lot of people on Preston New Road, Montague Street and Park Road who are worried about this.

“We are going to object to the scheme and are getting a petition together to send to the planning committee.

“Local residents need assurances this is a suitable location and will be safe and secure.”

Businessman Alan Price, who runs a workshop on Preston New Road, said: “There is a lot of concern.

“I accept there is a need for facilities like this where people coming out of psychiatric hospitals can be helped back into the community, but I am not convinced this is the right place to do this.

“Local people will need assurances from the applicants and the council that this scheme is suitable, safe and secure.”

Liyakat Vali, who lives in Preston New Road, said: “Residents are very concerned about this.

“We already have problems with young people and others gathering on the park and there are two nurseries and QEGS nearby. This is a residential area and I don’t think it suitable for this scheme.”

An ASC Healthcare spokesman had no comment to make.