victoria road

SCRAPPED - Alpha now plan to sell on the property in Victoria Road

SCRAPPED – Alpha now plan to sell on the property in Victoria Road

ALPHA HOSPITALS will not be going ahead with plans to use a house in Knaphill as a facility for vulnerable teenagers.

Residents had called an emergency meeting after finding out that the property – 14, Victoria Road – bought by the private mental healthcare company was not going to accommodate staff as the vendors and estate agents had been led to
believe – but to house five female patients.

Although Alpha refused numerous requests to send a representative, Woking Borough ­Council chief executive Ray Morgan, local councillors Melanie Whitehand and Saj Hussain, 38 residents and the News & Mail attended the meeting on Friday, July 6, at St Hugh of Lincoln Church in Victoria Road.

While fully appreciating the need to cater for the integration of Alpha’s vulnerable patients into the broader community, the Knaphill residents felt strongly that accommodating five 14 to 18-year-old female mental healthcare patients in a property where 23 young children live withinjust a four-house radius, was inappropriate.

An action group spokesman said: “We acknowledge these young adults need a place to live while they recover – no one is immune from mental illness – and we have learned that Alpha work closely with the NHS. But our priority is the safety of our own children and families already living here and we feel Victoria Road is unsuitable.”

At the meeting, Mr Morgan said: “I understand the stress caused. I am here to see if we can reconcile the situation. The house is not the same as the hospital. It is about moving people on in settled accommodation.”

He added that he would seek to secure a letter from Alpha to residents to outline the precise nature of use by Friday, July 13.

The spokesman said: “We feel it was a constructive meeting and were pleased to have the support of Ray Morgan.”

A statement last Friday from Alpha Hospital’s Zsara Thomas, said: “Alpha confirms it no longer plans to open a home at 14 Victoria Road. We remain committed towards providing much-needed mental healthcare for children in the community.”

Mr Morgan stated: “I have agreed to assist in finding accommodation in a less sensitive location to provide the essential support these people need.

“It was clear none of you wished to harm the young people Alpha were intending to support, you were just fearful and wanted to secure the safety of your own children.”

CAMPAIGNER - James Tucker lives next door to the property in question

CAMPAIGNER – James Trotter lives next door to the property in question

FURIOUS Knaphill residents battling a private company’s plans to move mental healthcare patients into a house in their street turned out in force for an emergency meeting.

The Victoria Road Action Against Alpha Hospitals Group called the meeting after finding out that the property at No.14 bought by Alpha was not in fact to accommodate staff – as the vendors and estate agents had been led to believe – but to house five 14 to 18-year-old female patients, within a four-house radius where 23 young children live. Builders had already been moved in without warning.

Although Alpha had refused numerous requests to send a representative, Woking Borough Council chief executive Ray Morgan, local councillors Melanie Whitehand and Saj Hussain, 38 residents and the Woking News & Mail attended the meeting on Friday at the St Hugh of Lincoln Church in Victoria Road.

After three weeks of being “fobbed off’, the group had made up to a dozen invitations to the private healthcare company to send a representative to make them accountable.

I understand the stress caused. I am here to see if we can reconcile the situation

All were refused without explanation – repeatedly saying they would meet individuals only.

Questions were emailed to the hospital but were either not answered at all, side-stepped or answers changed.

Apologies had been received from the council for their lack of communication. A formal complaint had been made to them but with a waiting time of seven days. And the group had written to MP Jonathon Lord who was unable to attend but wants to be updated on the situation.

James Trotter, who lives next door to the property with his wife and three young children said: “My home has been valued at £475,000 but, an estate agent said, if the house next door does become a care home, the value will drop by £100,000.

‘We have no problem with nurses moving in.”

Mr Morgan said: “I understand the stress caused. I am here to see if we can reconcile the situation.

“Council officers have advised Alpha to make an application for its legal use. This is an application for a Certificate of Lawfulness. If it complies, Alpha will be able to proceed. If not, they will have to go through a formal planning application.”

When asked about the deceitful way the company had bought the house, Mr Morgan said: “I am not in a position to speak for Alpha on the subject of being misled. I will take it up with their senior management.

“The house is not the same as the hospital. It is about moving people on in settled accommodation. It could be my daughter, your son… these could be our children. I can personally speak as I lived near a house in the same position in Gloucestershire where there was no problem.”

A resident said: “Is that why you moved here, then?”

Mr Morgan said: “We do need a dialogue with the company and to look at how do we help manage this situation.”

Mr Morgan said: “I have come here to find a way to address the issues. I have not come here to make it stop.”

Another resident said: “I worked in a home in Camden for 14 to 18-year-old girls and I can guarantee you there would be a blow-up three or four times a week – windows broken, furniture smashed up… I promise you it will be mayhem.”

Mr Morgan replied: “Let’s not stigmatise these children.”

Asked what degree of mental issues the patients may have, he said: “Some children will have different conditions. I don’t know who these people will be. There is an absence of clarity. I am happy to come back and answer all your questions.”

When asked what do the neighbours do if the patients move in and then kick off, Mr Morgan said: “We need to find out what constitutes ‘disturbance’, ‘inappropriate conduct’ – we need it defined.”

When compared to ‘normal’ teenagers’ behaviour, another resident responded: “When they play their music too loud, you just knock on the door and ask them to turn it down. You can’t do that if you don’t know who’s going to answer the door and what reception you might get.

“We want to know what the protocol is if something happens – management, Alpha…”

Mr Morgan said: “If things did get out of hand and I am unable to overturn the process, I will seek authority from the council to intervene and buy out Alpha.

“What I might seek to do is a back-to-back deal with Alpha for the council to buy the property from them and house a family in it.

“But the deal goes both ways – from you residents too.”

It was pointed out that the neighbourhood officer is also very concerned about what the police might have to deal with.

A resident said: “You should have at least two carers in a house of five teenagers, which will make the total seven and therefore it’s a business.

And: “If the clients are in the house for only six months, as we have been told, they are transient and therefore not resident.”

Another resident asked: “It is a profitable opportunity for Alpha – doesn’t that make it a business?”

Mr Morgan said: “It is a private business with the NHS. This is exactly the same. Yes Alpha will make a profit, just as your GP does and NHS dentists. The point of delivery is part of NHS services.”

To which a resident replied: “But I don’t think my doctor or dentist are mentally disturbed.”

James Trotter added: “We were planning to spend the rest of our lives living here. If it goes ahead, why don’t you buy my house and move in, lose £100,000, because we do not want to live here.”

Mr Morgan concluded: “The first stage will be for Alpha to apply for Certificate of Lawfulness via the council. And state what they will do in writing.”

He has said that he will seek to get Alpha to commit to taking no action to commission the operation at 14, Victoria Road, until the council has been able to determine the planning use of the property.

If it is established as a lawful use he will endeavour to establish with them the precise nature of use and a protocol that would secure reasonable operation to avoid local disturbance and to remedy any events should they arise.

He will also seek an exit route if possible should the need arise.

Mr Morgan is seeking to secure a letter from Alpha to residents to this effect by Friday, July 13.

He has requested a ‘cooling off period’ of no public activity against this intended use while he pursues these matters.

KNAPHILL HOSPITAL – psychiatric care

KNAPHILL HOSPITAL – psychiatric care

A GROUP of outraged residents are fighting plans to house patients with mental health conditions in a property recently bought by a private healthcare  company.

The ‘underhand’ manner in which Alpha Hospitals – a medium-secure mental health facility – went about the purchase has infuriated and upset many families in Victoria Road, Knaphill.

Alpha had informed estate agents and vendors that they wanted to buy No.14 as a residence for five or six members of staff.

James Trotter, who lives next door to the property with his wife and three young children, said: “I initially looked into the matter because of concerns that five staff could compound on the already congested parking in the road.”

On May 22, when he tried to get in touch with Alpha’s registered manager, Ian Hutchinson, the switchboard would not put him through and refused to pass on Hutchinson’s email address.

After three weeks of being “fobbed off’’, Mr Trotter received a letter from Alpha on June 14 – dated June 7 – by which time the sale of the property had been completed on June 11.

It transpired that Alpha’s objective was to change the property’s use from residential to one suitable to house girls ‘unable to live at home’.

Whether this means a secure unit or not is unknown.

Alpha already has a purpose-built hospital in Knaphill which provides an extensive range of psychiatric care for people with mental health conditions.

A resident said: “We’ve learned that Alpha do not need a planning application for the residential institution because there are to be no more than six people living in the house.

Mr Trotter added: “The property was bought in an underhand way, stating that it was to be for staff to live in – but we now know Alpha’s intentions are to convert the house into a home for up to five female patients aged 14 to 18.”

A Victoria Road Action Against Alpha Hospitals group has been formed and a meeting called for Friday, July 6 at St Hugh of Lincoln Church in Victoria Road at 8pm, inviting Alpha representatives, residents, councillors, local police and MP Jonathan Lord. A petition has also been set up calling for the plans to be scrapped.

Alpha Hospitals business development director Zsara Thomas admitted: “We recognise that our communication with residents has fallen far short of what was expected and we regret any upset and distress caused.”

In a letter to residents Ms Thomas said Alpha would not be attending the meeting but that she would be “happy to meet with any resident individually”.

One resident, who did not want to be named, said: “Alpha’s credibility has gone down the pan. There is no trust there any more. The very least they can offer us is an explanation and we would like some guarantees.

“We would like some reassurances and some open lines of communication should the need arise.”

CLOSURES - the Tour Series will mean road closures across Woking

CLOSURES - the Tour Series will mean road closures across Woking

ROAD closures will hit Woking as the penultimate leg of the Halfords Tour Series returns to the borough.

The town centre will be closed to traffic on Tuesday, June 12 from 10am until midnight but residents and shoppers will still be able to access car parks within Peacocks and Wolsey Place shopping centres via Lockfield Drive.

The routes affected include:

  • A320 Guildford Road from the Sovereigns Pub to Lockfield Drive (including Victoria Road)
  • Goldsworth Road from A320 Victoria Way to Coign Church roundabout
  • Church Road West from Coign Church roundabout to A320 Victoria Way.

Diversion routes will be in place while the road closures are in operation and motorists using the Monument Way diversion are advised to follow the diversions already in place.

Woking Borough Council’s Tour Series Project Manager Geoff McManus insisted the early closure of the town centre was paramount to the smooth running of the event.

He said: “The roads need to be closed at 10am to allow for the Tour Series course to be built by a specialist technical team.

“Once complete, some of the key routes around the Town Centre will be transformed into a high-speed professional circuit; ready for the Community Races starting at 12.30pm and the action-packed professional races starting at 5.15pm.

“Last year 12,000 people lined the streets to watch the penultimate leg of the Tour Series unfold.

“Motorists are advised to plan ahead and check whether or not they will be affected by the road closures and also to leave a little extra time when travelling into and out of the Town Centre.

“Visitors to the town are urged to use trains or public transport, or in the spirit of the event, travel by bike.”

For more information about the Tour Series, visit  www.cyclewoking.org.uk/tourseries

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