A casting vote was needed before a controversial secure unit for mentally ill children was given the go-ahead by Doncaster councillors.
The planning committee hearing the application for a secure residential unit on Barnsley Road, Scawsby, was split four-four and it was down to chair Eva Hughes to give it the nod of approval.
There were howls of protest from about 50 local residents gathered in the public gallery at the Civic Office who had listened to objections from all of their three ward councillors.
They were supported by committee member Susan Bolton, who raised concerns about the safety aspect of patients with psychotic behaviour living in a residential area.
The site is sandwiched between the Aldi supermarket and Jewsons builder’s merchants, backing on to homes in Lower Malton Road.
Cheswold Park Hospital, run by Riverside Healthcare, in Sprotbrough, wants the satellite operation to be a low secure residential institution for up to 28 teenagers of both sexes who have been detained under the Mental Health Act. They will have a diagnosis of mental disorder that will range from psychosis to severe anxiety, depression, personality disorders and learning disabilities.
It is expected the 50 jobs created will bring an extra £750,000 a year into Doncaster’s economy.
The committee also received 700 letters of objection, which showed the strength of local feeling, said ward councillor Bill Mordue, who believes it is the wrong location for such a facility.
Last week one of the Cheswold Park patients escaped during a supervised visit to the town centre, and that was seized upon by Coun Susan Bolton.
She told the meeting: “I have got vast concerns about this. People with schizophrenia never, ever, lose it?
“There is a school opposite and a recreation ground near it. They can’t even keep those at Cheswold Park, and if anything did happen to anyone in the community, who would take the blame? This is not an appropriate development for a residential area.”
Coun Mick Jameson expressed concerns that there had been no public meeting for residents to air their views and for issues to be resolved before it reached the planning committee.
Ward councillor Kevin Rodgers raised fears about the traffic aspect as well as community safety. “Our concerns are borne out by escapes out of the sister site. The fears of the community are real in my view.”
Referring to the size of the plot, he described it as ‘akin to trying to fit a large ship into a small bottle’.
Coun Pat Haith, raising objections on behalf of both Sprotbrough and Brodsworth parish councils, said residents were ‘understandably concerned’ about safety.
Coun Mordue added: “We need to look at the quality of life and the human rights of people who would border this site.”
Speaking in favour of the application, Linda Stevenson, of Cheswold Park Hospital, said the proposed facility would provide social, therapeutic, life skills and educational development in a place closer to the patients’ home area.
Currently many are housed in places as far away as the west coast and Devon. “Being away from home without family support is not conducive to recovery. It needs to be as close to home as possible,” she said.
The unit will be staffed 24 hours a day.