More protests over Baldock mental health unit

A fence around Baldock Manor has been erected but residents are not happy with it

A fence around Baldock Manor has been erected but residents are not happy with it - Credit: Archant

MORE protests against the opening of a mental health clinic in a residential area have been triggered by a planning application for the retention of a security fence.

Baldock Manor

Baldock Manor - Credit: Archant

The retrospective planning application for the three-metre high fence at Baldock Manor on London Road in Baldock will be discussed by members of North Herts District Council’s planning committee after Nouvita, which manages the facility, failed to get permission to erect the fence.

The Comet reported last month how residents were angry to discover what they thought was a residential care home for the elderly is actually a care unit for people with mental health and substance misuse issues.

It has been claimed the fence, which backs onto the gardens of people living on Hillcrest, was erected to stop detained patients leaving the site.

District councillor Ian Knighton said: “In my view it’s disappointing the communication between residents and the owners of the facility has been so poor. I think that, although the application for the facility was all above board, the information about the facility should have been clear, with proper consultation.

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“This would have alleviated the concerns the residents now have. It would have also given the residents a better understanding of the facility.

“If the retrospective application is rejected, they would have to take it down and then it would be up to the owners to manage their facility bearing in mind local residents.”

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

Bernard Doyle, who has lived in Hillcrest for six-and-a-half years, said: “It has been very annoying for the residents to not have known about this.

“We bought this house to have some peace and quiet but all we hear are people screaming and shouting. And we have this fence, which is like a cage, which we have to look at day in, day out.

“I also know that property prices have devalued because of the facility.”

The 80-year-old, who lives there with his wife, said the other issue residents close to the facility have is the floodlights at the back of the building.

“I don’t even have to put the lights on upstairs because the lights at the back are so bright,” he said.

“I have nothing against people with mental health problems, but this facility is not in an ideal location.”

Sandra Brown, another Hillcrest resident, said: “It is frightening, and it does make me feel uncomfortable. A few times now I have heard the patients swearing while they have been out smoking.

“They are normally with two carers, now this makes me wonder if the carers are for the safety of the patients or for us. Sometimes you hear screams when they are being taken inside and it stops you in your tracks. I have nothing against people with mental health problems, but we have to live here too.”

The district council’s planning portfolio holder Tom Brindley said: “Planning permission could be granted retrospectively, allowing the fence to remain. If planning permission is not given, the applicants would be asked either to remove or to lower the fence to a height of two metres, with the right to appeal within six months of the decision.”

A spokesman for Nouvita was not available to comment.

The application is due to be heard on May 23, when residents will have the chance to voice their opinions.

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