Sheffield mental health crisis house plans spark alarm

Changes planned: The semi-detached property on Thornsett Road which could become a crisis house.
Changes planned: The semi-detached property on Thornsett Road which could become a crisis house.
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PLANS to set up a ‘safe haven’ in a Sheffield suburb for sufferers of mental illness and depression have sparked opposition.

National charity Rethink Mental Illness wants to create a crisis house in Thornsett Road, Nether Edge, converting a semi-detached property.

It would take in up to six people for around a week at a time, and would also be the base for a 24-hour helpline.

But the proposals have sounded alarm bells among neighbours - who point out a similar centre in Doncaster took in Hannah Bonser, who went on to murder 13-year-old schoolgirl Casey Kearney.

Planning permission for the project is sought at a meeting on Monday, where councillors will hear over 30 objections. Officers are expected to recommend the go-ahead.

Chartered surveyor Phil Potter, aged 54, lives next door to the property with wife Sue, and is one of those opposing the plans.

“The set-up as I understand it will be similar to the property in Doncaster where Hannah Bonser stayed,” he said. “After she killed Casey she went back to Rethink as it was where she felt safe.

“I accept there is a need for this kind of facility but we are not happy with these proposals. By definition people using the house will be in a moment of crisis. They may be unstable due to their drugs regime or be on the point of being sectioned. It’s the wrong location, it doesn’t suit the area, and the plans for the house represent a complete change of use.”

Kate Wareham, the charity’s area manager, said the house would be for people who do not pose any risk to others.

“Due to the stigma and myths which sadly still surround mental illness, we do understand why people might be worried about safety,” she said.

“Many people wrongly believe people with mental health problems are dangerous. This is simply not true. They are more likely to be the victims of crime than the perpetrators, and violence is not a symptom of mental illness.

“If someone was thought to be a risk they would be sectioned, not sent to our house. We need the support of our neighbours. I hope we can address their fears and gain their trust.”