Audit, Inspection and Safety

05.02.19

‘Inadequate’ plans to build new mental health hospital next to primary school to be reconsidered by council

Exeter City Council has apologised for an “inadequate” consultation into plans to build a new independent mental health hospital next to a primary school which failed to properly consider the safety of children.

The council has admitted its application to build a 54-bed independent hospital on Ribston Avenue was flawed, and will now be debated for a second time by the council’s planning committee.

The plans received more than 230 objections, including from the headteacher of St Nicholas Catholic Primary School who said it was “unacceptable” for a mental health hospital to be in such close proximity of the school.

Campaigners raised fears over the safety of children and residents when the proposals were approved on 3 December 2018, but the council has now received an application for judicial review of the decision made to approve the application.

Cygnet Healthcare would run the facility and had clarified that the hospital would be a secure unit with no one able to enter or leave the building without staff permission.

It said this was to secure the safety of patients rather than implying they were a risk to society, adding that all patients would be risk assessed by a multi-disciplinary team before they are allowed to leave.

Exeter City Council’s director Bindu Arjoon has sent a letter to all the objectors, accepting that the report in relation to safeguarding was “not sufficiently detailed” and consultation with relevant bodies was “inadequate.”

The letter stated: “It is unfortunate that that step has been taken as it is premature given that planning permission has not yet been issued by this council, and, in so doing, also involves both the council and the individual applicant in spending time and money on the case unnecessarily.”

Exeter has now said it has “been decided that the council will consult the relevant bodies and subsequently reconsider the application at its planning committee meeting on April 15, with the assistance of a supplementary report.”

In a statement, a Cygnet spokesperson said it acknowledged the council’s decision and would continue to co-operate with the authority but stressed that “an unmet need” for inpatient mental health services had been identified in the region.

The city council has written to all the objectors assuring them that all issues raised will be referred to in the reconsideration of the application, and has advised them on how to make additional representations.

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