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HCA funds 650-home scheme on site of abuse scandal psychiatric hospital

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HCA funds 650-home scheme on site of abuse scandal psychiatric hospital

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Development

Whittingham Hospital Whittingham Hospital

The Homes and Communities Agency is ploughing £4.2 million into a new 650-home development on the site of what was once Britain's largest psychiatric hospital.

The reputedly haunted Whittingham Hospital in Lancashire closed down in 1995, and was the centre of abuse allegations in the 1960s.

At its peak, the hospital housed around 3,500 patients. The site's abandoned buildings have become a magnet for ghost hunters and 'urban explorers'.

In 1967, the Student Nurses' Association made complaints of cruelty, ill-treatment and fraud at the hospital. Witnesses said that they had seen patients dragged about by their hair, locked outside in cold weather, strangled until they lost consciousness and even set on fire.

A following investigation led to the early retirement of both the head male nurse and the matron. Another nurse was jailed for manslaughter after a patient he had beaten died.

The hospital opened in 1873 with a capacity for 1,000 patients. Infrastructure included both Anglican and Catholic churches and a farm estate. The site even saw its own private branch railway line added in 1887, which shipped in coal and goods and provided staff and patients with free transport.

The housing scheme plans for the site have seen the HCA use money from the government's public land infrastructure fund to pay for the demolition of the majority of the old hospital buildings. The crumbling buildings occupy the land earmarked for the new housing and pose serious health and safety risks.

The agency plans to retain a listed church on the site, some sports club facilities and five standalone character buildings known as the ‘villas’.

The 650 homes will be built in four phases over the next 10 to 12 years. Taylor Wimpey is expected to commence construction of the first phase of 150 homes in late 2014, with a mixture of market and 'affordable' dwellings.

Marie Hodgson, the HCA's head of area for Lancashire and Cumbria, said: “We’re using significant government funding to unlock the hospital site, which will lead to hundreds of new homes being developed in the next few years. The redevelopment of the site will contribute towards the wider housing and economic goals of the City Deal through the delivery of crucial infrastructure that will benefit residents and workers and support the growth of the Preston local economy.”

Photo by Luke Weyman

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