PLANS to build 600 new homes on the site of the old Lea Castle Hospital near Kidderminster have been given the green light.

Planning consent was secured for the development at the end of May and now Vistry Partnerships - formerly Galliford - has secured a £137m contract from Homes England to bring the project forward.

James Warrington, regional managing director of Vistry, said: "We are very pleased to be working in partnership again with Homes England and our excellent consultant team on this large scale regeneration project which will transform a redundant former hospital site into a vibrant new community.

"The development will provide a range of new high quality homes, boosting economic growth in the area whilst enhancing the local environment to become a flagship new place to live."

The site will be made up of one to four-bedroom homes, including development of the local highway network, while adjacent land will be promoted for employment opportunities such as start-up business units and a cafe or shop.

Open spaces and play areas will also be included in the development.

Cookley residents previously raised concerns the plans would lead to congestion on surrounding roads.

The Crescent, off the A449 Wolverhampton Road, forms an access road to the former Lea Castle Hospital site and neighbours feared their "peaceful" estate could soon see hundreds of cars passing through.

Lea Castle Hospital, which was previously a mental health unit, treated and assessed more than 600 people in its heyday in the 1960s and boasted facilities including a hydrotherapy pool and dental clinic.

The centre closed its doors in 2008, despite campaigning from groups including the Lea Castle Action Group.

The hospital site was run by Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust and employed 187 people before the closure was announced. Trust bosses had decided to close the site following a public consultation.

The future of the hospital site had been uncertain for many years, with rumours circulating that it could be redeveloped as a science business park, a prison or a traveller’s site.

It also became a target for metal thieves and The Shuttle reported in 2013 how residents were worried by the use of the site for police exercises.