Work well underway on redevelopment of the former Harperbury Hospital

The south side of the new facility with scaffolding surrounding the blue toilet room units which are

The south side of the new facility with scaffolding surrounding the blue toilet room units which are already in place - Credit: Archant

Currently it may just be a busy construction site but by this time next year the scaffolding will have come down on what is being hailed as a leading facility for people with mental health and learning disabilities.

This week reporter Samantha Lewis donned a hard hat and hi-vis jacket and headed to the development off Harper Lane in Radlett to see how it is taking shape.

Since February builders have been working on the £42 million project on the former Harperbury Hospital site which, when completed, will become a therapeutic space for adults experiencing mental health problems.

While at the moment a little imagination is needed to envisage the finished product, it is clear a lot of thought has been given to the design to ensure the building is modern, light and airy.

The inpatient centre, which is being commissioned by Hertfordshire Partnership Foundation University Trust (HPFT), will have five single-sex and mixed wards with a total of 86 en-suite bedrooms, as well as treatments rooms, a communal lounge, two courtyards and a café.

Jess Lievesley, managing director for transformation at HPFT, explained: “The feel that we are trying to go for is one that is about space; providing people with an environment that promotes their recovery, that does not feel rushed and that is putting as much control in them as possible.”

He added: “This was Harperbury Hospital but this has been relaunched as Kingsley Green and very deliberately to move away from this being a historically old institution.

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“This is something entirely different, we just happen to be using the land.”

The site was officially opened in 1936 and was home to a hospital that supported people with learning disabilities and later mental illness.

Over the years it evolved and moved toward helping patients’ rehabilitation and reintegration into the community, but gradually the hospital became run-down and officially closed in 2001.

Now the area, of which the HPFT owns 11-acres, is going through yet another process of transformation with a secondary free school earmarked to be built on part of the land, and a further 242 acres have been put up for sale with potential for residential development.

When asked how the mental health unit - yet to be named - will integrate with the rest of the site Mr Lievesley commented: “We want to be part of the community, we don’t want to be separate because of the stigma around mental illness.

“I hope we are able to bridge that and people come in and use the facilities like the cafe and so on.”

Phase one of the build is due to be completed by May 2014, which includes opening the North Block complete with 34 beds and a large number of the planned state-of-the-art facilities.

Then the remainder of bedrooms in the South Block will follow around two months later and the work will culminate in an official opening and garden party.

And the hard work does not stop there as the HPFT has big ambitions and hopes it will become one of the pioneering facilities of its kind in the country.

“This is a good chance to develop facilities from the ground up and see what is important to service users,” Mr Lievesley said.

“I think that is what will make it unque and I challenge anyone to find a better mental health facility than this one.”