Offshore `Alcatraz' prepares detox refuge for addicts

A FIRST WORLD WAR anti-aircraft fort known as the "Alcatraz of the North" is to become Europe's largest recovery centre for drug addicts and alcoholics.

Standing at the mouth of the Humber estuary, between Hull and Grimsby, Bull Sands Fort was built in 1915 to bolster shore defences. Its developers hope it will be a place to bolster addicts' resolve to kick the hard drug habit.

Clients will stay at the fort for 30 days, going through the traditional 12-step recovery programme established by Alcoholics Anonymous. They may then go on to rehabilitation clinics and further counselling.

There will be space for 160 patients and a team of doctors, counsellors, psychiatrists and psychologists. The pounds 1m project recently received planning permission from East Riding of Yorkshire Council, and engineers are already drawing plans for a dramatic conversion.

"This will be for people who have tried other methods and failed to get rid of their addiction. It will be the end of the line," said Philip Ball, a trustee of drugs charity Streetwise which has bought the fort freehold. "A lot of shore-based clinics are very good but one thing they can't provide is a secure environment. There will often be a pub round the corner. That's not the case here. This is a retreat. It will be like going to a monastery."

Visiting the fort, three miles off Cleethorpes, is like entering a futuristic, almost nightmarish ghost ship. The only way to get there is by local fishing boat or in the Cleethorpes lifeboat. From a distance, the fort resembles a giant tank stranded by the high tide; it is 100ft high, built over four storeys, and planned like a vast drum with reinforced concrete. It weighs some 40,000 tons.

Inside, it is dank and unwelcoming. Floors are caked in four inches of bird dropings; railings rattle in the wind, and pigeons flap at the unexpected visitors. It is easy to see how the First World War gunners lived, for their kitchens are still recognisable and their metal spring beds are lined up in the old living quarters, littered with droppings and feathers. In what was the boiler room, a previous inhabitant has left a novel behind: The Secret Sanctuary. A bell tolls on top of the fort's highest mast.

At high tide, the Humber bubbles and swirls 20 feet deep around the base of the fort. Addicts will be taken to and from the fort by a trawler boat or tug, and a helipad will cater for emergency cases and to enable "celebrity" addicts to visit the clinic at short notice.

"It will not be easy to get off," said Mr Ball, referring to the fort. "With the tides, it will take 24 hours and any counsellor worth his salt should be able to persuade someone to change their mind within that time. Addiction can take a terrible grip, so it can require an equally strong solution."

Streetwise wants the centre to offer immediate assistance. "You can wait four years with some local authorities just to get an assessment for treatment. That's not a lot of good," said Mr Ball, whose son died at the age of 21 from heroin addiction - because, he says, a detox service was not immediately available. The new centre is to be named the Stephen Ball Alcohol and Narcotic Detox Sanctuary.

Nearby Grimsby is a town all too familiar with the problems that drugs can bring. The recent count of young deaths from drugs was three times the national average.

John Nawrockyi, deputy director of social services for North East Lincolnshire Council, said there would be local sympathy for the project. "Isolation can take a person away from the culture, and buy time for that person to change. But you have to be careful not to separate the person so much from the community that they can't cope with going back again."

Gary Barlow, of the Cleethorpes Inshore Lifeboat Service, added: "This is far enough off shore not to affect anybody. They're not exactly going to pop over into the town, are they?"

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Interactive / Mobile Developer

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Midweight

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Front End Developer

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Front End Developer - Midweight / Senior

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks