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Report - Denbigh Mental Hospital - October/November 2013

Discussion in 'Asylums and Hospitals' started by TonyP, Mar 6, 2014.

  1. TonyP

    TonyP 28DL Member
    28DL Member

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    Been done a lot of times I know, but a first for me. First post - so please be forgiving!

    Opened in November 1848 following a report by the Metropolitan Commissioners in Lunacy which identified the appalling conditions that Welsh inmates were being subjected to in the English asylums, Denbigh Asylum was built on twenty acres of land donated by Joseph Ablett, of Llanbedr Hall. The magnificent clock tower was a later addition built with money donated by Mr. Ablett's widow in memory of her late husband.

    Originally constructed to house and treat 200 patients, there were soon problems with over-crowding and the asylum came under increasing pressure to expand. As a result several extensions were built over the years, the most extensive of which was in 1899. At its peak in the 1950s the hospital housed 1500 patients and 1000 staff. It was declared surplus to NHS requirements in the mid 1980s following Enoch Powell's radical ideas regarding the development of new mental health care strategies and a subsequent move away from 'institutionalisation' towards community care initiatives and finally closed it's doors in 1995.

    North Wales Health Authority began marketing the site for disposal in June 1994 but no suitable offers were received. It was re-marketed in autumn 1998 and sold for £155,000 as a single development to a Lancashire businessman who had previous success in developing a similar site. The sale resulted in a net cost to North Wales Health Authority of almost £300,000, due mainly to the protracted nature of the sale and the high and continuing costs of security and maintenance. The final sale price was also depressed due to the deterioration of the property over the five years it was on the market and problems over rights and responsibilities in respect of adjoining properties identified late in the sale process.

    By September 2002 the buildings had become increasingly dilapidated due to theft and vandalism and Denbighshire County Council, having lost confidence in his plans for the hospital, threatened enforcement action against the owner. The site and buildings were immediately placed on the market and sold to new owners in December 2002 for £310,000 - a 100% increase on the original purchase price.

    In May 2005, the Council granted outline planning permission for an enabling development on 17 acres of land for new build housing located discreetly behind the main hospital building. 'Enabling development' is a mechanism whereby development that would not normally be permissible under planning policy is granted for the specific purpose of creating capital value that can be used to fund the restoration of listed building. This permission was subject to an agreement which obliged the owner to pay a significant sum into a restoration fund, controlled by the Council. During the planning process, the ownership of the building was transferred to an offshore company. In September 2006 the Agreement was signed and underwritten by a bond with a British bank. A deposit was to be paid initially and the balance was to be paid before the end of September 2009.

    However, during 2007 and 2008 the housing market declined putting pressure on the viability of the scheme, despite a significant element of enabling development granted as part of the planning permission. As a result the scheme was never implemented, the balance of the restoration fund was not paid by the due date and the planning permission lapsed. The Council found itself back at square one - with a deteriorating building and no developer. The owners have since failed to maintain or secure the building and as members who saw the report on BBC's 'Permission Impossible' on 25 February will be aware, the Council voted to pursue a Compulsory Purchase Order in September 2013.

    For years the largest local employer, 'The Mental' touched the lives of everyone in the community and when it closed it left a hole that has still not been filled. My wife's parents both worked there - it was where they met. My father-in-law's sister was admitted in the 1950s suffering from venereal disease (unmentionable at the time) and remained there until her death in the early 1980s by when she had become completely institutionalised.

    It's on my patch and I guess I should have done it a long time ago. Three of us made two very enjoyable visits during last October & November, each lasting about four hours, and managed to get around pretty much everything that's at all accessible. There was no sign of the old buzzard who thinks he owns the place on either occasion - the only people we encountered were one or two other parties similar to ourselves.

    The old place is suffering badly now, though still very beautiful. Someone asked about the floors in an earlier thread - many of the upper ones are very precarious. Even the ground floor, which in places is made of some sort of thin aggregate, has some gaping, deep holes and looks far from trustworthy. A decent torch is very handy in some parts. Some pictures here - thanks for looking -

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