Residents fears over mental health unit

RESIDENTS in rural Essex have told of their fears that a new secure mental health unit will be “another Broadmoor” on their doorstep. People in the quiet village of Tendring are furious about a proposal for a 30-bedroom two-storey mental health building which could be given the go-ahead in the next few months.

RESIDENTS in rural Essex have told of their fears that a new secure mental health unit will be “another Broadmoor” on their doorstep.

People in the quiet village of Tendring are furious about a proposal for a 30-bedroom two-storey mental health building which could be given the go-ahead in the next few months.

The new facility, including security fencing, would be built alongside the existing Oaktree Manor, which is a low security set-up for people with learning difficulties.

Private company Partnerships in Care Ltd has applied to Tendring District Council for planning permission for the building on Heath Road.


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Last night it said its application at this stage was a “generic proposal” as it was uncertain at this stage what security level the patients would be.

More than 135 objections have already been made and pamphlets have been handed out in both Tendring and the surrounding villages including nearby Beaumont.

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Louise Balfour, clerk at Tendring Parish Council, said although the application is for a medium-secure unit, she feared efforts could be made to set up a high-security unit.

She said: “The impact this would have on the village would be incredible, this could be another Broadmoor right in the middle of Tendring.

“The problem we have at the moment is that application is saying it is not going to be as bad as it will, so why build a five-metre fence around it? This is not scaremongering.”

Mrs Balfour said although Partnerships in Care held a public meeting last September, she said the company had painted a very “rosy picture” of the proposals.

The parish council has been urging villagers to put their objections in writing to Tendring District Council.

Mrs Balfour predicted there would eventually have to be a public inquiry on the issue, regardless of which side was successful.

Last night a spokeswoman for Partnerships in Care Ltd said: “At the moment it is a generic proposal at the planning stage.

“We will be working with people with learning disabilities who are detained under the Mental Health Act who can benefit from our services.

“Some of those may have previously been housed in prison or as on remand - however all patients who are referred to us are thoroughly risk-assessed before their placement is agreed.

“At the moment we are uncertain what sort of patients we will be working with.

“It is likely the unit will accommodate patients requiring conditions of low-security. The existing site is low-security and the new unit will compliment the current site and it is likely to be very similar to the service we already have.”

She said although the application was for a medium secure unit, there were currently no plans to step-up to that grade of operation.

james.hore@eadt.co.uk

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