EMOTIONS were running high at a meeting in this week as more than 135 residents packed Penton Village Hall worried over the plan to turn a derelict former hotel near Weyhill into a secure unit for the mentally ill.

London-based company, Covenant Healthcare Ltd have submitted a planning application to Test Valley Borough Council to replace the former Rothsay Hotel with a secure unit (surrounded by a five metre high mesh fence) for mentally ill people.

At Tuesday night's meeting, chaired by Test Valley Borough Councillors Tim Southern and Philip Lashbrook, residents voiced their anger over the plan.

For more than an hour residents voiced their concerns - many were worried that the site would be over developed, that there was a lack of information and that there had been no demonstration of need for this type facility in this area.

The existing building covers 1100 square feet, a nursing home plan given outline permission for the same site would have been about the same size but the latest proposal is 4,000 square feet, more than three times the size.

People also felt the fence, would be ugly and intrusive in the countryside. Councillors' were not able to reassure residents about the security of the site, the proposed landscaping around the fence or whether the NHS had given a formal contract to the company.

The application says the unit will house people who have been compulsorarily detained and in an acutely disturbed phase of serious mental disorder requiring intensive psychiatric care.

For the full story see Friday's Andover Advertiser.