Care village plan nears for derelict school
AFORMER Southport school plagued by arsonists and vandals is set to be transformed into a retirement village in a multi-million pound development.
Birkdale School for Hearing Impaired Children, previously Terra Nova, has been hit by arson and vandalism, and has attracted squatters and travellers, since it closed 15 years ago.
The former school on Lancaster Road, a stone’s throw from Royal Birkdale golf course, is also covered in overgrown weeds and rubbish.
Footage captured by an urban explorer in 2016 showed extensive fire damage, as well as smashed windows, torn down railings and fencing, and pulled-down ceilings, with the majority of walls covered in offensive graffiti.
Octopus Healthcare’s proposal for the site – which includes a mix of refurbishment and new build to house a total of 113 assisted living apartments – is expected to get the go-ahead from Sefton Council’s planning committee tomorrow, Wednesday.
The school was last occupied in 2003 and has since fallen into an appalling condition, with the principal Grade II building severely damaged by fire in May 2010.
Approximately a third of the building, the right-hand side elevation facing Lancaster Road, has been razed, and the remainder has been exposed to a number of freezing winters which have contributed further to the poor condition of the building’s interior.
There have been previous unsuccessful attempts to develop the site in the period since.
Most notably, an application for conversion of the listed building and the development of a large part of the grounds for residential development was dismissed at appeal in 2015. This followed a previous scheme which also went to appeal but was withdrawn in June 2012.
It has led to neighbours living with one of Merseyside’s biggest eyesores for years with no hope of a new future for the site – until now.
The current proposal seeks to convert, extend and refurbish the listed building, with new build development within the grounds to facilitate an extra care use, for over-55s with a professionally recognised health care need. More recent extensions will be demolished.
Areas of the building damaged by fire in 2010 will be rebuilt.
The main building has the capacity to house 25 assisted living units, while formal rooms on the ground floor would be restored to house communal facilities.
Listed air raid shelters will be retained as part of the plans.
In his report to councillors, Sefton Council chief planning officer Stuart Barnes said: “There is acceptance that the layout causes ‘less than substantial harm’ to heritage assets, and this harm must be weighed against the public benefit derived from bringing the listed building back into use.
“Historic England fully endorse the proposals.
“Planning permission and listed building consent should be granted.”
If plans are agreed the developer will enter a legal agreement committing to restoring the listed building on the land at an early stage.
Octopus Healthcare spokesman Andy Baddeley said: “This scheme presents a wonderful opportunity to safeguard this iconic building for future generations, yet provides a muchneeded retirement and extra care facility for people to really enjoy this unique place.”
The scheme would provide associated facilities including a bistro, residents’ lounge, library and hair and beauty salon as well as providing on-site care.
The site was originally opened as Terra Nova, a private boarding school, in 1901 before it became the School For Hearing Impaired Children in 1948. The building was given a Grade II listing in 1999.
● The shutdown school in 2003; main picture, how the new development will appear