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Flats plans to help VSA ‘bridge north-east mental health gap’ at risk of refusal

VSA hopes to put money raised from the sale of the disused Forest Grove care home towards its multi-million-pound expansion.
VSA hopes to put money raised from the sale of the disused Forest Grove care home towards its multi-million-pound expansion.

Plans to fund vital charity mental health services across the north-east by selling off land for flats could be at risk.

VSA, working with Cala Homes, wants to build 35 flats on the site of its disused Forest Grove care home in King’s Gate in order to bankroll work to reduce the time hundreds of people have to wait for support.

But council planners have thrown the charity’s money-spinner into doubt, recommending the proposals are refused the city’s planning committee.

VSA bosses had hoped to raise funds for new facilities in the Granite City and Aberdeenshire through the sale of the land.

Money from the scheme is to be put toward the charity’s new £3.2 million state-of-the-art mental health care facility on the corner of Abergeldie Road and Holburn Street.

With 20 beds, staff from the new centre will also be able to offer care to another 40 people through home visits.

Early in the pandemic, VSA carers warned of a “ticking mental health time bomb” due to increased isolation during lockdown – and a spokeswoman said – “now more than ever” – the funds from the sale of the land would be put to good use.

VSA: Income from flat plans would ‘bridge the gap’ for hundreds of people waiting for mental health help

She told us: “We look forward to the committee’s decision for Cala’s development of our Forest Grove site at King’s Gate.

“Sadly, one in three adults in Scotland are diagnosed with a mental health condition every 12 months. As Aberdeen’s largest provider of independent mental health services, we are acutely aware that there is a gap in the landscape of service provision.

“Hundreds of people are waiting for a mental health residential placement or outreach support services across Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, and thousands more are waiting for general mental health support from the NHS.

“The funding from this sale would go directly towards helping bridge that gap and providing support to people who need it most.

“Now more than ever, vulnerable children and adults across Aberdeen need our support, and we hope that the committee approves this development which will have a direct impact on meeting those needs.”

VSA and Cala previously withdrew plans for a five-storey, 49-flat development on the disused site at 22 King’s Gate, after officials made again recommended refusal.

Their latest pitch for the former care home was for 35 apartments, mostly over three floors – though there would be a penthouse level on a fourth level not covering the whole footprint of the block.

Planners shared community concerns about the VSA and Cala Homes flat plans

Bringing forward their latest plans, Cala Homes architects said they had taken much of the feedback from the more than 30 objectors to their previous scheme.

VSA's Forest Grove care home at 22 King's Gate, Aberdeen.
VSA’s Forest Grove care home at 22 King’s Gate, Aberdeen.

But there were only a handful fewer objections lodged with the local authority this time around, with 30 people fighting the plans to flatten the existing building.

Concerns raised included the risk of overdevelopment, that the building was too tall, that King’s Gate was already busy enough with traffic and that the design was not in-keeping with the surroundings.

City planners agreed that the plans would constitute overdevelopment and that it would not “respect the site’s historic context”.

They also want councillors to turn the development down over proposed loss of trees and worries not all residents in the new build would have sufficient daylight in their homes.

Cala Homes northern land director, Ross Maclennan, said: “We firmly believe in this proposal and its alignment with planning policy.

“The plans have been very carefully designed based on extensive consultation with various stakeholders and would replace a redundant, surplus building with much-needed, high quality residential apartments.

“Earlier versions of the application have been significantly revised to include fewer properties and markedly reduced building height, ensuring that the development would complement its surroundings.

“The development would also enable our partners at VSA to further invest in providing vital services to the children and adults it supports in Aberdeen, at a time when such services are under more pressure than ever before.”

Aberdeen’s planning committee will consider the plans on Thursday.

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