Plans for a cluster of cottages to be developed as a residential mental health facility have been approved by the Central Planning Authority.

Built across 15 acres in East End, the facility will include nine cottages, each capable of housing six patients and a central building for administration, dining and activities. It will also feature an orchard and vegetable garden.

The planning approval is a major step forward for the $10-million project which has been in the pipeline for several years. It will provide residential care in the Cayman Islands for mental health patients for the first time. Currently, mental health patients in need of long-term care are sent overseas, usually to Jamaica.

Jonathan Ashton of DDL Studios, the local architect on the project, said the modern, open design was a far cry from the traditional public perception of a mental hospital.

“A lot of people started with an idea in their heads of what this would look like based on how things were done in the past. It’s very different now.

“We have tried to create a setting that is like being at home, that is conducive to rehabilitation,” he told the Cayman Compass.

“We have moved a long way from institutional facilities for this type of project.”

Mr. Ashton gave a brief presentation to members of the CPA Wednesday, fielding queries about the proximity of the development to the Doppler radar weather center.

He said the height of the buildings met the requirements for new construction close to the radar and would not interfere with operations.

He also explained the “high-tech” security system at the facility, which will include a network of CCTV cameras and below-ground motion sensors, but no fences.

He said the environment was designed to be therapeutic. There will be areas to cultivate vegetables, a small orchard and an activities building where patients can learn crafts and trades.

A gift shop is also planned at the site to allow them to sell their produce and creations.

Mr. Ashton said, “The concept of the project is rehabilitation. The idea is to get people to develop skills that allow them to reintegrate into the community.”

Ultimately the facility, designed by Toronto-based Montgomery Sisam Architects, will be able to house up to 54 patients.

Staff will be on duty at all times though they will not live on site.

Alice Liang of the firm, told the Compass in January, the specialist design aimed for a “fine balance between … a healing, therapeutic, normalizing environment for recovery and one that ensures safety, security in the most dignified and respectful manner.”

Mr. Ashton said Wednesday it would provide a new amenity that was badly needed.

“What’s great about this project is it is something that doesn’t exist in Cayman right now.

“It is something that will be beneficial to the country, which is why it has got this support.”

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