As quite a number of residents will be aware, Alpha Hospitals have purchased 14 Victoria Road with the intention of changing its use from residential to that suitable to house girls ‘unable to live at home’. Whether this means a secure unit or not is unknown.
James Trotter and numerous others have contacted us with their concerns and we’ve been overtly rather quiet on the subject. Mainly because there are legal considerations and a number of unknowns that will impact the local residents of Victoria Road. We have been in contact with Melanie Whitehand and the council and as per usual, WBC have been resolutely uncommunicative.
James summarised in his letter to us –
The [Alpha Hospitals] company already has a purpose built, state of the art hospital in in Knaphill. The hospital provides an extensive range of psychiatric care for people with mental health conditions and learning difficulties. The specialist forensic mental health services, which are gender specific, include personality disorders, mental illness, rehabilitation, deaf and adolescent enhanced psychiatric intensive care services.Alpha Hospital’s intention is to use 14 Victoria Road to provide a children’s home for a number of girls that they have told me are currently ‘unable to live at home’ Whilst fully appreciating the need to cater for the integration of their patients into the broader Knaphill community, especially children/ adolescents, I have raised a number of concerns directly with them about this purchase. I am not trying to be a meddling neighbour, but we have three young children and feel our concerns are more than valid. We spent a significant amount of money to come and live in Knaphill 5 years ago to raise a family and did it expect we would be living by a secure mental home in a residential area. I am not expecting the KRA will action anything here necessarily, but my wife and me are perplexed that this purchase was allowed to happen with no consultation at all.
Letters and emails have been flying between the residents of Victoria Road, Alpha and Cllr Whitehand and tempers at how Alpha have approached the project are beginning to fray. We’ve been kindly invited to attend a residential meeting on 6th July between all parties to resolve the huge concerns from residents.
Not wanting to upset the apple cart or more importantly distort facts between residents and Alpha which could easily be contrued wrongly in any future legal action, all residents of Victoria Road have been invited to leave their comments on this page to publicise their plight. To date, letters and emails have been communicated between both parties and Cllr Melanie Whitehand, with the residents deperately wanting assurance and answers and Alpha providing responses which fail to satisfy.
At a meeting that is due on 6th July, the residents will get together with various parties (including councillors, MP Jonathan Lord and ourselves) are invited to discuss this now contentious issue. Alpha have declined the invitation to the meeting but have said they will meet with individuals. The meeting will outline the situation and relate it to current planning regulation; I’m sure there will also be much debate on the lack of communication and openess from both Alpha and WBC prior to work starting and what the next steps shall be. A petition has also been started for residents to show support.
Make no mistake – there is A LOT of anger over this from Victoria Road and the way it has been approached.
The meeting of the 6th appears to have gone well. Lisa & James Trotter and Becky & Lee Cable et al are putting in huge efforts for this cause and Annie Wheeler has kindly provided an update –
We feel it was a good constructive meeting and we were very pleased to have the support of the Chief Executive of Woking Borough Council, Ray Morgan, and Councillors Saj Hussain and Melanie Whitehand and the residents who attended.
Lee Cable started the meeting with a statement from the ‘Action group’, James Trotter then ran through the diary of events including how many times we had contacted Alpha and the questions we had raised with them. Becky Cable then read out a letter from the previous owner of Number 14 which was in effect a signed statement that Alpha Hospitals had told Mrs Willis that they were buying the property for staff accommodation. Becky then read a similar declaration from Townends estate agent, thereby demonstrating that Alpha had not been honest about the purchase of this property right from the start. We then discussed the classification of the property that Alpha are claiming this is (a C3b class which is up to 6 people in a household) which the council have confirmed does not require ‘change of use’, and stated that we refute this claim and consider that this business either comes under property class C2 (residential children’s home), or C4 (between 3 and 6 unrelated people living together in one house). Ray Morgan has said he will get WBC lawyers to look into this.
We were very pleased to have Ray Morgan in attendance and he spoke at some length about his knowledge of other care homes and rehabilitation facilities that were in residential areas, which in his experience did not cause any major problems. There followed some interesting comments from residents, including some from people working with psychiatric patients. The message was very clear. Number 14 is not a suitable venue to house psychiatric patients who have only just left hospital because of the proximity of other residential houses and that Alpha are very mistaken if they think that one over-night manager in the property will be enough to manage five children, especially as these children are free to come and go as they wish. Some of our residents who have working knowledge of similar situations, had some very alarming experiences to share which included “With five children, you can expect between one and three major disruptive events per week” and “How long do you think it will take before the teenage boys in the area work out that there are six young girls living in one house without parental control?”
It’s a clear disappointment Alpha Hospitals refused to attend the meeting which would have gone a fair way to show the residents they’re willing to face the issues raised. Annie also mentioned that the residents on the whole are pleased with having such a constructive and informative meeting and that all the information gathered thus far had been disseminated well.
Ray Morgan 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, and if it is established as a lawful use and he has been able 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 13 July and has requested a ‘cooling off period’ of no public activity against this intended use whilst he pursue these matters and the residents will respect this request.