A DOCTOR has denied rumours that a proposed family assessment centre in Cricklade is going to be a home for paedophiles and drug addicts.

Dr George Hibbert has been running a centre that assesses families involved in care proceedings in Tadpole Lane, Blunsdon, for two years and now wants to expand the scheme.

He and his co-director, solicitor Jill Canvin, have submitted a planning application to change the use of Windmill House, Common Hill, which is currently a residential property.

The property will be used to house up to four families, where the parents' ability to look after their children has caused concern for social services.

Their interaction with their children is monitored to see if they are suitable for having custody of them.

But he says some residents of Cricklade have misunderstood the purpose of his business, which is called Assessment in Care.

Dr Hibbert, who has been practicing psychiatry for 25 years, said: "Most people in Cricklade have been inflamed by the wild talk and on hearing the word paedophile they get anxious.

"But this talk is just untrue. It is also defamatory if it harms our business.

"These are people who are trying to get their children back. They are under the most stringent controls by social services and the courts.

"But people talk about them as if they are wild animals and out of control.

"I think it is absolutely disgraceful."

The doctor, who lectures at Oxford University, said the parents who are assessed at the centre may have been abused as children and are having problems in adulthood, or rehabilitated drug and alcohol addicts wanting to become responsible parents.

And he insisted clients had to show a commitment to overcoming their addiction and that no alcohol or street drugs were allowed on the premises.

He is able to prescribe methadone but says so far he has never needed to.

The fees for each client are paid through the courts either from legal aid or social services.

The company is planning to buy Windmill House if the planning application is successful. It will be considered at a meeting of North Wiltshire District Council on Thursday.

Elizabeth Franklin, 42, of North Meadow Road organised a meeting in Cricklade on Saturday, which was attended by 40 concerned residents.

She said: "I am not trying to stop this gentleman from having the houses, I am just trying to find out what it will be used for.

"I have made a lot of inquiries and have found it to be quite disturbing.

"This man thinks he can cure people of their problems in four weeks to three months. This means there will be a high turnover of residents coming and going. The units they are staying in are not secure. They could easily come down to the town. I personally find this concerning."

Other residents expressed concern that if some of the users of the house were drug addicts they might turn to crime in the town to feed their habits.

Mrs Franklin said she may start a petition and contact North Swindon MP Michael Wills to find out more.