Go ahead for new SEN school and mental health centre
CGI of London River Academy. Picture: BDP. Provided in Richmond Council documents
May 19, 2023
A new NHS mental health centre and school for children with special educational needs are set to be built in Richmond. The facilities are set to replace old buildings at Barnes Hospital on South Worple Way after the scheme was green-lit.
The new 90-place school is set to be called London River Academy, run by the Beckmead Trust, for students between seven and 19 years old with social, emotional and mental health needs. The outpatient mental health facility will be for adults and form part of the South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust.
Local Kathy Sheldon, chair of Friends of Barnes Hospital, welcomed the scheme at Richmond Council’s planning committee on 10 May.
She said, “We believe it’s vital to replace the current out-of-date hospital buildings with a new flexible healthcare facility which will help meet the changing needs of the NHS in the decades ahead as well as the current increasing need for mental healthcare.”
About the school, Lib Dem councillor Penny Frost sai, “We’ve waited patiently for a long time for this to come through to planning as this site carries with it a key piece of the jigsaw of our whole educational offer for our young people. Our borough has never had adequate provision for our young people’s SEMH needs.”
But some residents raised concerns, particularly over traffic. Local Philip Barden said the road network of South Worple Way is “extremely restricted in width”.
He said, “development should minimise and mitigate impact on the local highway network and in particular the junction with White Hart Lane and ensure a safe pedestrian environment”.
A visualisation of the development submitted with the planning application. Picture: BDP. Provided in Richmond Council documents
Resident Simon Swaby added, “The proposed building heights and massing are greater than the surrounding area and the… outline planning application previously approved. This leads to a loss of privacy for existing adjacent properties and the increased massing is contrary to the surrounding area.”
Lib Dem councillor John Coombs said, “I suppose the good news really for us is although we have heard from a number of residents that they don’t like the design of some of the blocks, well both the blocks actually, and they certainly are very unhappy about the traffic, no one has actually come and spoke against having a school or a mental health unit on this particular site.”
Ian Garlington, executive director at the trust, said the hospital has “not been used in earnest for nearly a decade” with “lots of vacant spaces on it for us, it’s no longer fit for us to provide modern effective mental health services from and as such this is a really exciting front for us to come forward”.
Mr Garlington said, “With the Beckmead, we have an outstanding opportunity to make sure that they can work with us in a site in close proximity to actually make sure that we have the next generation supported within our community and have the best chances to come forward into employment and into being successful members of our local society.”
He added, “London River Academy will provide an extraordinary opportunity for pupils in the area as well as South West London and St George’s offer for outstanding mental healthcare within our community.” He said the trust spends and recruits locally, with “lots of new jobs coming forward in order to support the better care for patients going forward”.
Barnes Isolation Hospital first opened in 1889 to care for patients with infectious diseases. It was later renamed and mainly provided mental health services by the early 1990s. It has not provided inpatient services since 2013 and existing outpatient services will be relocated to Teddington while the new centre is built.
Outline plans to bulldoze disused buildings on the site and put up a new mental health centre, school and homes on the site were approved by the council in September 2020, ahead of detailed applications being submitted for the separate parts.
Housing plans for the site were then brought forward by Star Land Realty UK – including 106 flats in blocks up to four storeys tall and revamping two buildings to create three homes. The council is considering these plans.
The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Secretary of State for Education and the South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust submitted the separate application for the mental health centre and school.
A council report said the total trips generated by the site, at full occupation, was found “not to result in a severe or cumulative impact on the highway network”. It added the scheme is “not considered to result in unacceptable loss of privacy, nor will it appear visually intrusive to neighbouring properties”.
The committee unanimously voted in favour of officers’ recommendations to delegate authority to the assistant director of environment and community services to approve the application subject to conditions.
Charlotte Lillywhite - Local Democracy Reporter
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