PLANS for a 24-hour mental health centre could be knocked back after council bosses labelled it "speculative".

Representations from Blackburn with Darwen Council's adult services department suggested planning and highways committee members should not back the proposal to convert Oakfield House in Preston New Road when they meet next week.

In a formal response to the application, department officials say they are currently working on a future market position statement which will determine sufficiency and future demand for learning difficulty facilities as well as those for autism, mental health, elderly persons, extra care, residential care, nursing care and specialist needs such as for the borough's ageing Asian population.

The response adds: "We would wish to work with health partners to ensure that there is a proper commissioning process supporting revenue commitment and that we are able to deliver the type and quality of accommodation and support that is needed for the long term that serves and supports the needs of the borough's population.

"As a general rule we should not be supporting any specialist supported housing without the necessary commissioning support from the Integrated Care Strategy or health partners.

"We are increasingly looking at joint financial planning over the medium term to ensure that the system remains coherent and sustainable.

"It would appear that the application is possibly speculative and unsupported by any formal commissioning agreement with a health care/social care provider at this stage.

"As such we cannot offer support for this application and would recommend refusal as a specialist supported housing scheme.

"If the applicant has been commissioned from outside Blackburn with Darwen by another local authority then we would question why they are not seeking to build in that local authority area.

"Clearly should our position change in the future it would result in commissioning against a known or projected demand and would have the agreement of health and care partners."

Officials also said there was a "significant over-supply" of one-bedroom and bedsit properties in Blackburn, particularly along Preston New Road.

Hundreds of people had voiced their support for the proposed new mental health unit, while more than 100 people had also signed a petition against the development.

They expressed concern about the proposal to turn Oakfield House into a 24-hour halfway house for 30 men and women coming out of secure psychiatric services.

They say the development would provide a safe and nurturing environment for people with complex needs who require support to recover from mental illness.

Planning officer John Wilson took the concerns of adult services into account and is recommending members refuse permission.

He said: "The proposals represent non-commissioned development that does not form part of the council’s strategy for the provision of mental health services.

"It fails to provide sufficient information to determine the level of impact the development would have on the council’s publicly provided support services.

"The proposals also fail to provide sufficient information to determine the level of risk the development would have for the amenity of neighbouring schools and residents."

Applicant ASC Healthcare said in documents submitted to Blackburn with Darwen Council planners: “Oakfield House open rehabilitation unit will provide a safe and nurturing environment for local males and females with complex and often enduring mental illness and learning disabilities who may have stepped down from secure services or other rehabilitation services.”