Royal Albert Farm housing plans are ‘wholly unacceptable’ says health trust

Part of the site earmarked for the development.
Part of the site earmarked for the development.

The health trust which operates a mental health facility in Lancaster has raised concerns about “wholly inappropriate” plans to build 77 homes next to the unit.

Plans have been submitted to the city council on behalf of the Homes and Communities Agency for the land at Royal Albert Farm, off Ashton Road, to be redeveloped as housing.

The site includes Derby Home, a former mental health facility, which could be demolished as part of the scheme.

Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust (LCFT), who oversee a separate mental health facility next to the site, have outlined a formal objection to the proposals, which they consider to be “wholly inappropriate, raising numerous planning policy conflicts and likely to generate unacceptable effects on the amenities enjoyed by the service users of our client’s facilities at Pathfinders Drive and indeed the wider locality”.

The trust says they were not consulted on the scheme and that their clients believe there is a “considerable risk that the operations at the mental health facility will be incompatible” with the housing proposed.

The trust also accuses the property arm of the NHS of putting cash before clinical care in selling off the site for housing development.

In a letter to the council’s planning department produced on the trust’s behalf, Steve Jameson, property director of LCFT, wrote: “It’s clear to us that short-term cash returns are trumping long-term planning to meet the needs of those suffering mental ill-health.

“Bearing in mind the anticipated closure of Ridge Lea, also likely to facilitate housing development, it ought not to be too late to reverse the decision to sell the Pathfinders Drive site and give priority to caring for vulnerable people locally.”

Mr Jameson added: “It appears that NHS Property Services Limited has overlooked its primary duties to consult with the NHS to ensure much needed and valued estate with a mental health use is retained to be developed and utilised to support those services on the Pathfinders Drive Mental Health Campus.

“Instead, a secondary duty of achieving its ‘specific targets to dispose of sufficient surplus land and buildings to enable the future development of approximately 2,000 homes and secure capital receipts for reinvestment in the NHS’ has been prioritised.”

Scotforth Residents’ Group say the trust’s concerns give backing to their own objections.

Deborah Otway, on behalf of the group, said: “We are pleased that the planning objection from the Lancashire NHS Care Foundation Trust supports local residents’ views that the housing scheme is not sustainable development.

“In addition, Historic England has strongly recommended that city council planners refuse demolition of Derby Home because loss of the building would ‘cause harm to the significance of the Royal Albert Hospital complex’.”

“We were quite astonished to read LCFT’s reaction to the decision by the property arm of the NHS to sell off the Pathfinders Drive site for housing.

“LCFT has accused NHS Property Services Limited of prioritising capital receipts over provision of mental health services.”

Deborah added: “We understand the city council’s anxiety to reach its housing allocation target.

“However, the benefit of being 77 houses closer to the 12,000 target does not outweigh the detrimental harm that will be caused by this development.”

The proposed development is for the erection of up to 77 dwellings on land at Royal Albert Farm, Lancaster.

Located within the site is a derelict building known as Derby Home, which was built in around the 1920s as a mental health unit.

It was linked to the nearby Royal Albert Hospital, which was a learning disability centre.

Derby Home was closed down about 15 years ago and has remained vacant since.

Vehicle access to the site is from Pathfinders Drive, which is located off Ashton Road, and which is shared with the nearby Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust facility.

The final decision on whether to demolish or convert Derby Home will not be made until the reserved matters stage.

The site has been allocated for residential development since the Lancaster District Local Plan was adopted in 2004.

The land has recently been transferred to the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), who are the national housing and regeneration delivery agency for England, and the planning application has been prepared and submitted on their behalf.

Should the application be approved, the HCA would be looking to dispose of the site to a housebuilder, who would then submit detailed

proposals that deal with matters such as the design of individual properties, footpath and roads, boundary treatments, areas of open space and landscaping.