Somerset secure mental health hospital given go-ahead

Artist's impression of the hospital
Image caption The hospital will be built off junction 26 of the M5, near Wellington

A new secure mental health hospital for Somerset has been given the go-ahead.

The 75-bed hospital near Wellington was approved by Conservative-led Taunton Deane Borough Council and will be built by Montpelier Estates.

A spokesman for the developer said the hospital should be up and running by the end of 2012.

But councillor Ross Henley, leader of Taunton Deane Liberal Democrats, said he was not happy with the location, near a children's nursery.

The £20m unit is described as a low to medium secure residential treatment and care facility for people with learning disabilities and mental health needs. Some will have criminal backgrounds.

Building work will begin at the site, just off junction 26 of the M5, towards the end of this year. The hospital is expected to be run by the Priory Group.

'Visible location'

Councillor Henley said: "It's in a place which is opposite a children's nursery, it's very close to a family pub/restaurant, it's in a very visible location on the entrance into Wellington.

"There it's going to stand with its 17ft-high fences. Is it in the right place, I ask myself, for this type of business, so close to those type of businesses and very close to a brand new housing estate as well?"

John Thorne, spokesman for Montpelier Estates, said he was aware not everyone was happy with the decision

He said: "I understand that people are concerned at this perception of crime.

"I'm a parent with two young children so I understand that you want to protect them from any kind of harm, but until they actually see it built I don't think they are going to be terribly reassured."

Speaking of a similar development in Birmingham, which Taunton Deane councillors were taken to see, Mr Thorne said: "As you walk down the street it could be a hotel or any kind of complex like that.

"It's built to high specifications, it's not going to look like a prison."

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