NEARBY residents are celebrating after plans to turn the former Saltways care home in Webheath into a Children and Mental Health Services Unit (CAMHS) run by Regis Healthcare received a setback on Wednesday evening.
It came when councillors on the borough’s planning committee rejected the recommendation of officers that they should approve a three metre high fence and extensions to the existing building in preparation for the unit.
Instead they voted unanimously to refuse it saying the proposed fence would be totally out of keeping with the residential area.
Councillor Bill Hartnett said the fence would be out of character with the street scene and overbearing, and he was joined by Coun Julian Grubb who said: “Taking away the emotion of the issue I wonder what we are here for if we always have to go with what the officers say if we can come up with a reasonable argument and this proposed structure is out of proportion for where it’s going to be.”
In a marathon planning meeting members heard from local residents and health experts, including Peter Hill whose garden backs on to the site.
He said: “This fence is designed to keep people in and I question whether the development is appropriate for a residential area.”
Speaking as a resident Joanne Archer, the head of community services at Birmingham and Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group who has also commissioned mental health services, said the preferred practice was to treat young patients as close to home as possible, but with only one child in Worcestershire currently meeting the criteria for such a home, the unit would be ‘importing’ children from elsewhere.
“It’s also common for such units to be close to paediatric A&E, which for this unit will be Worcestershire Acute over 35 minutes away,” she said.
Mr Palmer for the applicant raised the issue of ‘Nimbyism’ in Webheath adding that of 72 public comments available 67 were in support of the facility.
Quoting one he read: “I think it’s a fantastic idea and a much needed facility.”
However councillors were concerned about the fence, and proposed by Coun Mike Chalk and seconded by Coun Tom Baker-Price, the application was rejected.
Nevertheless the application to convert Saltways into a Tier 4 CAHMS unit has not gone away, as it is the subject of a planning appeal by the applicant – who has changed the details of the application three times – for non-determination by the council within the statutory time limit.
However the result of Wednesday’s vote will go forward to inform that appeal.