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Noise and safety fears over proposed expansion of mental health hospital site

PUBLISHED: 06:30 21 July 2020 | UPDATED: 10:54 21 July 2020

Hellesdon Hospital, which plans to build five new wards on Wensum Valley land. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Hellesdon Hospital, which plans to build five new wards on Wensum Valley land. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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Plans to expand a mental health hospital have sparked fears over noise, lighting and traffic safety from people living in homes nearby.

Chloe Smith MP visits the site of the proposed new wards at Hellesdon Hospital. Pictured with Jonathan Warren, Chief Executive of NSFT. Picture: NSFTChloe Smith MP visits the site of the proposed new wards at Hellesdon Hospital. Pictured with Jonathan Warren, Chief Executive of NSFT. Picture: NSFT

Earlier this year, the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) submitted a bid to build five new wards on a patch of land neighbouring Hellesdon Hospital on Drayton High Road, Hellesdon.

The plans would see the number of beds available at the hospital increase from 65 to 80, reducing the need for mental health patients to be sent outside of the region for care.

However, the bid has been met with some trepidation from some neighbours living in nearby Wensum Valley Close, who, among other concerns, fear that patients in distress would be audible from the close and those allowed to leave the site by foot would be at risk of being hit by vehicles on the Low Road.

In a written objection to the scheme, one neighbour said: “The noise of music, abusive language and I assume distress is already very problematic, especially at night.

“Our housing complex is pitch black at night and if the rest of the [hospital] site is anything to go by, with the proposed site being even closer to us than the current residential blocks we will be lit up like a fairground.”

Another wrote: “If building was allowed on this site it would drastically change the character of Lower Hellesdon. The removal of a green field site within the Wensum Valley corridor will have a significant effect on the wildlife and the ecology of the area.”

However, another person who has lived in the close since 1983 said they had never experienced any issues with the hospital at all.

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Mason Fitzgerald, deputy chief executive of NSFT though, said: “This exciting project will see us develop a next generation mental health facility to improve the safety and quality of the care we are able to provide for local people.

“We are making sure our service users and the public are able to feed in their views at every stage of the design process and are keen to engage with the community on any concerns they may have before the full application is submitted in spring/summer 2021.”

How the trust plans to address concerns

One objector questioned why the trust had set its sights on building new wards, rather than updating existing buildings on site.

Mr Fitzgerald said: “The refurbishment of existing buildings would not enable us to achieve the next generation in mental health care. While we are in the early stages of the project, the design team are working on ensuring the building will blend into the landscape and reduce visual impact.”

Regarding noise overspill, he said: “Part of the design development process is to review the acoustic impact on the surrounding area and the use of modern building techniques will ensure that the potential noise levels are kept to a minimum.”

On patients leaving site on foot, he said: “All service users receiving treatment on our inpatient units have a care plan and a risk assessment to keep them safe. This will include their movement on and off the site.”


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