A DEVELOPMENT described as the biggest mental health scheme in York for years has been approved by City of York Council.

The green light means work will now begin on the £10 million scheme to extend facilities at the Clifton Hospital site. It will offer female patients 22 new bedrooms, a gym, café and will see staff numbers rise from 66 to 166.

Coun Barbara Boyce, the new chairman of the council’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, said: “York has a history of an enlightened approach to mental health care and I hope that this decision leads to improvements in care for patients which enable them to recover quickly and return to their families.”

However the plans have not proved popular with nearby residents who set up an action group last month to block the proposals.

Wayne Dixon, of nearby Fylingdales Avenue, told The Press last month that residents felt the proposed scale, location and design would detract from the open character of the site, which was within one of York’s green belt “wedges”.

A report handing to the council’s planning committee members ahead of their decision said: “Currently, patients in need of this type of care are being treated in locations remote from their home, with consequent difficulties in their long term recovery.

“The proposal would link with a long-standing low secure facility for the treatment of male patients, with the opportunity for co-use of specialist staff with the appropriate range of expertise.

“The secluded woodland setting of the site provides a suitable clinical environment to aid the recovery of the patient.”