Nothing to fear from new unit, says mother

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A mother with experience of mental health problems in her family has spoken out in defence of plans for a new inpatient unit in Hemel Hempstead.

Diana Walker, of Boxmoor, has expressed frustration over ‘the way the people of Hemel Hempstead are thinking of mental illness’ concerning proposals to change the St Paul’s unit in Slippers Hill – which currently provides day care services – into an inpatient unit for 18 patients.

“People who go there are not going to be dangerous,” she said. “People have been in and out of their day services – there has never been any trouble. When you get people saying ‘I live around the corner and I’m frightened’, what do they think they’re going to do?”

County councillor Ron Tindall, who chaired a public meeting about the plans last Tuesday at Hemel Hempstead Civic Centre, said afterwards: “Whenever someone mentions mental health, people think of people running around in the dark with axes.

“My main concern is the parking issue.”

Earlier the meeting heard fears expressed around security, parking and privacy.

One elderly woman said: “I would be absolutely terrified living just round the corner from this.”

Mike Kember, who is clerk to Bovingdon Parish Council, told the meeting: “I live directly opposite. It’s a very pleasant, quiet residential area. That could change if it becomes 24/7 care.”

Herts Partnership NHS Trust says 2,300 people in Dacorum received mental health services in the past year and the borough needs an inpatient unit.

Planning chiefs have asked the trust for more information about the proposed change of use and then a 21-day period of public consultation will follow.