Call for abandoned mental health hospital site to serve thousands of new Harrogate homes

The original site proposed for Harrogate's new mental health facility, which was bought for 1.8m in 2016.
The original site proposed for Harrogate's new mental health facility, which was bought for 1.8m in 2016.

A senior North Yorkshire councillor has called on a £1.8m plot of land earmarked for now-abandoned plans for a mental health facility to remain in NHS hands.

The call comes as Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Trust, who purchased the site in 2016, confirmed no decision has yet been made on the future of the land at Harrogate's Cardale Park.

However Coun Jim Clark, the former chair of North Yorkshire's health scrutiny committee, said it should be used to provide health facilities for thousands of new homes scheduled to be built on Harrogate's south-western arc over the next 20 years.

Harrogate district has 'been screwed' when it comes to mental health services, councillor warns
Coun Clark's call comes after it was confirmed that Harrogate's in-patient mental health unit the Briary Wing, which provides care for severe depression and dementia, will close in April.

The original plan was for a £16m, 36-bed facility to be built at Cardale Park as a direct replacement, with some landscaping and entrance work already completed at the site.

However those plans were frozen in 2017 amid growing concerns of a financial crisis in the NHS, with an alternate strategy adopted which will see in-patient care shifted to a new 72-bed facility in York from April.

While Coun Clarke said "it was the right thing the Briary Wing Close" due to it being out-dated, it was important that services remain in the area due to the growth in population predicted over the next two decades.

Harrogate's mental health beds to close in April - here's what happens next
"The land that was purchased should be used to either provide community health care or GP health practices, because we've got 4000 houses being built around there in the coming years," he told the local democracy reporting service.

"I hope they do not sell the land or if they do they sell it to another part of the NHS.

"It's a prime site that could be used to benefit the thousands of people who will soon live near there."

The new plans will see about £1m put towards in-community services in Harrogate, which will be aimed at addressing mental health issues before they reach a level requiring in-patient care.

Those who do need acute care will have to make the trek to York, with Coun Clark reiterating the current situation was off the back of years of mental health under funding.

"The important thing is that we have mental health services whether it be community or acute, because what we're seeing now is a result of decades of underinvestment," he said.

In a statement, Naomi Lonergan, the trust's director of operations in North Yorkshire and York, said "extensive work to understand the mental health service needs and priorities of people living in Harrogate and the rural district" had been undertaken.

"We continue to engage with local people, our partners and stakeholders around the future of mental health services in the area and no decisions have been made with regards to the future of the site," she said.

"We remain committed to providing care as close to home as possible, whilst maximising patient safety and providing the best possible patient experience."

Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter