Big step forward on the horizon for pioneering wellbeing hub in city

Churchman House in Norwich, which is poised to become a pioneering wellbeing hub. Picture by SIMON F

Churchman House in Norwich, which is poised to become a pioneering wellbeing hub. Picture by SIMON FINLAY. - Credit: Archant Norfolk

A pioneering wellbeing hub geared at alleviating some of the strain on the county's mental health services could leap one of its final hurdles this week.

Paul Kendrick, Norwich City Council cabinet member for resources Photo: Bill Smith

Paul Kendrick, Norwich City Council cabinet member for resources Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Bill Smith - Archant

A crisis hub has been in the pipeline for almost two years now, with hopes it can help trim the number of mental health patients being sent miles away from the county for treatment.

However, various delays and complications has meant that the facility, which will be the first of its kind in the county, is yet to become a reality.

This week, though, a significant step could be taken if Norwich City Council agrees to rent out the city's former registry office for it.

Churchman House, on Bethel Street in Norwich, is owned by City Hall and was most recently used by Norfolk County Council as the registry office - but has been empty since September 2016.

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Approaches were first made to use it as a community wellbeing hub in June 2017, but the plans are still yet to get off the ground.

Now, the city council's cabinet is being asked to formally agree to a £150,000 refurbishment of the Grade I listed building to allow the hub to be based there.

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Once the hub is up and running, NHS Property will lease the building from the council at £30,000 per year.

Paul Kendrick, cabinet member for resources, said: "I believe the hub will be a very positive thing for the community and really a win-win situation for everybody.

"From the council's perspective, it saves the costs maintaining and providing security for a building and bring in an income from the rent.

"The facility itself will be very much welcome and provide something of a real benefit to the community."

A report to the cabinet states the vision for community wellbeing hub had been modelled on facilities in Aldershot, Lambeth and Bradford, offering "a non-medicalised, easy to access, non-stigmatising place for people to access information, advice and support".

In Aldershot - for example - there is a facility called the Safe Haven Café, which offers drop-in support for mental health issues in evenings and weekends.

A spokesman for Norfolk's clinical commissioning groups declined to comment ahead of the cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

Churchman House history

Churchman House was built in 1724, as a merchant house by Worstead weaver Thomas Churchman.

In the middle of the 18th century it was passed on to his son, also Thomas, who extended it and used it as his family home.

For a brief period it was also used as the Norwich High School for Girls - the school's home from its inception in 1875 until 1877.

After this two-year spell it was reverted back into a private home until being purchased by Norwich Corporation in 1919.

Initially after this period it was used as a headquarters for health services and had a variety of different office uses for public health.

In 1988 the building was then let to Norfolk County Council and used as the city's registration office.

It ceased to have this use in September 2016 and was subsequently placed on the market, before its new proposed use came to light.

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