ILLICIT photography enthusiasts have sparked a security review at the former Park Prewett psychiatric hospital in Basingstoke after they broke into the main buildings to take pictures.

The two enthusiasts, who like photographing and exploring forbidden sites, posted pictures on the internet showing the interior of the hospital, which dates from the First World War and closed in 1997.

Last month, the site was handed over to Government regeneration quango English Partnerships as part of a national initiative to speed up the rate of development on former NHS land. The site includes the landmark water tower, hall, main clocktower and some original wards which are set to be preserved.

Since the hospital closed, concerns have been expressed about the fate of the old buildings.

Conservative members of the Borough Council have also criticised the slow rate of house-building on the 55-hectare site. It is earmarked for 1,300 homes, of which only 280 have been built.

After being contacted about the break-in, English Partnerships issued a statement saying: "We are aware of the recent break-in and are currently investigating any problems."

The statement said the organisation would pay attention to the conservation area and listed buildings and work closely with Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council on how to "progress" the site.

However, the statement added: "It is too early to identify specific plans."

Roy Thompson, the borough council's head of planning and transport, said assurances had been sought from the landowners that the buildings to be retained would be kept water and windproof to minimise their deterioration while empty.

He added: "In the meantime, the council is about to issue detailed planning permission for the remaining 1,021 dwellings on the site.

"The council will seek to meet English Partnerships in the near future to further the release of the site in order to meet housing need in the borough and ensure the refurbishment of the buildings within the conservation area is delivered."

First published: Friday, May 13, 2005