A specialist mental health unit in Swindon can build an extension to create an area for calming distressed youngsters down.

But councillors who sit on Swindon Borough Council’s planning committee were concerned by reports from near neighbours about existing noise disturbance from the unit, and the prospect of it getting worse.

Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust applied for permission to build a single-storey extension to the southern face of Marlborough House, a unit in Okus Road where young people aged 11 to 18 live and receive treatment for a range of difficulties.

The new extension would contain a high-dependency unit with a bedroom and living space separated from the rest of the building with a staff observation room in between.

The purpose would be for patients suffering more distress than usual to stay in the space with less sensory stimulation and stress and be able to recover their equilibrium.

The health trust also wanted to increase the fencing around the grounds to prevent patients from absconding.

Any potential danger from the young patients absconding and more particularly noise from the existing until and the likelihood of it getting worse were the basis for objection from residents in nearby Tithe Brand Crescent.

One resident Philip O’Brien told the committee: “I represent all the residents from the nine houses whose gardens back open to Marlborough House.

“There will be a visual impact from the new extension even as a single storey because it is on higher ground. And we already suffer noise. It can be disturbing to hear distressed outbursts, crying, screaming or banging on the fence.”

Speaking in favour of the extension was Dr Gillian Combe, a consultant psychiatrist at Marlborough House for several years.

She said: “It has been in operation for 25 years now, and treats young people with mental health problems. They are the first tier of conditions, the least acute – most have anorexia nervosa, but some have suicidal ideation.

"About 60 per cent have autism and sensory needs.”

Dr Combe said Marlborough House had 12 patients at any one time and added: “We will not be adding to the number of patients, or increasing the acuteness of conditions we treat.”

She said the new extension would provide a young patient in distress with a “low stimulus environment” where they could stay until they felt more able to cope in the main unit.

She said: “This is a much-needed facility which will enhance care at Marlborough House.”

Her words seemed to convince councillors who voted for the plan by 11 votes, with no votes against but two abstentions.