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.”