The conversion of a former NHS clinic into a mental health residential and respite facility for women has been given the go-ahead.
Councillors have unanimously approved the scheme for 119 Union Road in Oswaldtwistle.
It will accommodate up to nine women over the age of 18 with ‘a range of mental health issues’.
Three objections were lodged with Hyndburn council planners, citing safety fears for children and elderly residents, increased traffic and congestion, a lack of security measures and concerns that it could be used by ‘violent or ex-offenders’.
But Ciara Hughes, speaking on behalf of applicant Margaret Hughes, said it was ‘unsubstantiated scaremongering’, and the facility would help local women in need of support.
The former police officer said around 6,000 mental health patients in the UK needed to be sent out of their area last year to receive care, at ‘extreme financial cost and burden to the NHS and also to the detriment of those patients’.
Speaking at a planning meeting, she said: “We hope that our centre, given its location, will help people who live locally.
"It’s people who just need a bit of help in their life and something has gone wrong.
“We are not trying to create a prison. We’re trying to create a centre in which the residents who we wish to home and help are among society’s most vulnerable and should therefore be helped and not stereotyped and castigated.”
Ms Hughes said the complaints showed the ‘social stigma attached to mental health’ and that it ‘disingenuously alludes’ to users being a danger to the public.
But Oswaldtwistle Coun Judith Addison said residents raised concerns because of initial lack of information in the planning application.
She said: “The applicant or agent could’ve made a better case and sold it better.
"Now we have the extra information I do feel that has largely allayed the fears that people, including myself, had about who might be living there and whether they might pose any kind of threat to the community.”
The facility will provide therapeutic group and individual sessions, and mental health trained staff will been on site 24 hours a day.
The applicant confirmed that users ‘will not be subject to mental health section orders’.
CCTV and improved lighting will also be installed.