Baldock residents discover elderly care home is a mental health unit

Baldock manor has erected a fence around the unit. Pictured is Cllr Michael Muir, with residents, Sa

Baldock manor has erected a fence around the unit. Pictured is Cllr Michael Muir, with residents, Sandra Brown and Peter Foxworthy - Credit: Archant

RESIDENTS are calling for action after discovering what they thought was a residential care home for the elderly is actually a secure unit for people with mental health and substance misuse issues.

People living in Hillcrest, Baldock, discovered the truth about Baldock Manor on London Road – a mental health, learning disability and substance misuse hospital service which cares for people whose rights are restricted under the Mental Health Act – after workmen erected a 12 foot metal fence around the facility a month ago.

Nouvita, which manages the property, was given planning permission in 2009 by North Herts District Council (NHDC) for a 55 bed elderly care home but no mention was made to the authority the provision would house people under the Mental Health Act.

Peter Foxworthy, who lives in Hillcrest and whose back garden backs onto the facility, said: “I am so annoyed, it has been total deception. Had they have been transparent about it, they would have been sure to have had objections from people in the town and people living near to the facility.

“Rumours have always circulated about the provision but we were never made aware of the extent of it. They are not welcome in this community and the residents are hopping mad that they have got away with this.”

It has also emerged the home did not gain planning consent from North Herts District Council (NHDC) to erect the fence.

It has been claimed it was erected after some patients tried to escape from the facility.

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Baldock councillor Michael Muir is calling for the issue to be discussed by the planning committee so residents can have their say.

He also claimed planning laws needed to be changed, so it would be clear what type of residential care is being proposed when people submit an application.

“I think they [Nouvita] have been deceitful, they knew what they wanted the building for when they applied in 2009 and planning permission was given on the basis that it was used for elderly people,” he said.

“The application was passed because it was thought the facility would be a good use of the building.”

Cllr Tom Brindley, NHDC’s portfolio holder for planning, said the council was aware there was a breach of planning control at the site, in relation to the fencing.

He also said the council was expecting a retrospective application.

“Planning permission was granted for a class C2 use at the site which covers residential premises for people in need of care,” he added.

“The council, as a local planning authority, was asked to assess the application in terms of that classification, and the specific nature of the care is not a material consideration. Planning officers are not asked, nor are they able, to make a decision on that basis.”

Clinical director for Nouvita Jenny Sayer said: “We are aware of the issue of planning for the height of the fence and planning department are dealing with this issue.

“We took the decision to erect an internal fence for the protection of some of our people. We are looking after people of adult age who are suffering from a specific type of early dementia which renders them unable to understand the reasons why they are in hospital. For this reason they may try to wander off and would be at risk to themselves. We are not detaining anyone who would be a risk to members of the community.”