An artist impression of how Birkdale Retirement Village Ltd plans to transform the site of the former Birkdale School for Hearing Impaired Children in Birkdale in Southport into extra care accommodation

New plans to transform a derelict former school site in Southport into a multi-million pound care village look set to be given the go-ahead this week. 

The former Birkdale School for Hearing Impaired Children, on Lancaster Road in Birkdale, has been empty and plagued by arson attacks and vandalism since the school was closed 19 years ago, in 2003. 

It could now be converted into a retirement care village, operated by Cinnamon Care Ltd, which would involve the conversion of the historic Grade II Listed main building as well as the building of six new blocks on the land.

Initial plans for 113 units of extra care accommodation were granted planning permission in December 2018. 

But the firm behind the plans, Birkdale Retirement Village Ltd, based in Chorley, has submitted fresh plans to change this to 147 units. 

The firm argues that the change is necessary “for the development to perform viably in the long term”. 

Sefton Council Chief Planning Officer Derek McKenzie is recommending that councillors agree to the revised plans when the borough’s Planning Committee meets this Wednesday (19th January), saying the site has fallen into “a dreadful condition”. 

However a petition has been raised against the plans, led by Sefton Liberal Democrat Leader Cllr John Pugh, who has raised his concerns. 

“The school was last occupied in 2003 and has since fallen into a dreadful condition, with the principal Grade II building (known as ‘Terra Nova’) severely damaged by fire in May 2010,” said Sefton Council Chief Planning Officer Derek McKenzie in his report.

“Approximately a third of the building, the right hand side elevation facing towards Lancaster Road, has been razed to the ground, and the remainder has been exposed to a number of freezing winters which have contributed further to the deleterious condition of the building’s interior.

“Works have now commenced on the listed building in accordance with the planning permission and listed building consents already granted meaning that restoration and refurbishment is already under way on site. 

An artist impression of how Birkdale Retirement Village Ltd plans to transform the site of the former Birkdale School for Hearing Impaired Children in Birkdale in Southport into extra care accommodation

An artist impression of how Birkdale Retirement Village Ltd plans to transform the site of the former Birkdale School for Hearing Impaired Children in Birkdale in Southport into extra care accommodation

“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.

“The development 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.

“The report properly balances the acknowledged heritage harm against the public benefits of the proposals, most notably facilitating the re-use of the listed building and providing much needed Extra Care accommodation.”

The school was built in 1901 and opened as a private boarding school for boys, known as Terra Nova, which later relocated to Cheshire. 

The boarding school continued until the start of World War II in 1939 when the building was taken over by the Central National Registration Office and was used throughout the war as a records office.

In 1948 the building was occupied by the Liverpool School for Partially Deaf. Its name changed to the School for the Partially Hearing, Birkdale in 1964. Its name was subsequently changed to the Birkdale School for Hearing Impaired Children in 1986. It continued under that name until its doors closed on 23 July 2003. The building has remained vacant since that date

A petition of 56 signatures has been provided objecting to the application and is endorsed by Cllr John Pugh. 

Local Conservative councillors Sir Ron Watson and Mike Prendergast have also written broadly expressing support for the principles but raising concerns over specific details relating to site layout, density and impacts on nearby residents.

Around 20 individual representations have been received from residents of Granville Road, Sandringham Road and Lancaster Road. These all object to the proposals, though some express more general support for the principle of securing the site’s future. Some comment that they had supported the original plans but cannot support these due to the changes to height and design and proximity to properties compared with the 2018 permission.

Birkdale Retirement Village Ltd wants to construct 147 units of extra care accommodation in six new blocks and within the Grade II Listed building. 

This would include the provision of ancillary accommodation and facilities in the Listed building; the reconstruction of part of the listed building destroyed by fire; the repair and works for the conversion and extension of the listed building to the proposed use; creation of a new access from Lancaster Road; and hardstandings for car parking and landscaping.

Chartered Town Planners Sedgwick Associates, which submitted the fresh application to Sefton Council, said: “The application proposals meet the challenges of development on this site and in particular will deliver the full restoration of the listed school building and its conversion to a beneficial long-term use.

“For the development to perform viably in the long term, it needs to have a sound commercial base with the proposed scale of development being essential if this is to be achieved.

“Taking this commercial imperative and the heritage requirements into account, pre-application discussions with the LPA have resulted in a balanced scheme of 147 residential care units, communal space and care facilities which will deliver very significant heritage benefits, much needed care facilities for Sefton’s increasing elderly population in a manner that meets operator requirements of financial sustainability, and significant new employment opportunities. 

“Given the recent history of the site, with the demise of the specialist school use in 2003, subsequent search since 2004 for viable development that would restore the listed building, that buildings deterioration, despite the owner’s best efforts, through vandalism, including part destruction by fire, the very real prospect of this highly beneficial development merits strong support.”

The proposals for an extra care development would provide managed care and support for residents over the age of 55.

Future residents will be required to subscribe to a weekly package of support from the operator, the level of which can be escalated to deal with advancing care needs. 

The application proposals closely follow those of the approved extra care scheme, with the listed former school building being the hub of the development providing the administrative and professional care base, shared facilities, and some residential units. 

Restoration and reconstruction work is currently ongoing in the listed building.

On site care and support is retained as well as the shared facilities available to all residents. Shared indoor accommodation is provided on the ground floor of the listed building and includes a restaurant, bar, lounge, courtyard garden, treatment rooms, library, hairdresser, gym and activities room, laundry, reception, management and staff accommodation. Externally, there will be an extensive area of landscaped gardens providing a safe area for passive recreation and scope for resident involvement in design and management of the open area.

The residential accommodation will be in two forms, assisted living units (ALUs) are for people relying most heavily on support services and shared facilities such as the restaurant. They are to be provided within the listed building and the attached Block F, so that they are close to the carers and the shared facilities. The Supported Living Units (SLUs) are for people who require care but are less dependent.

There would be 147 units of residential accommodation across the site, including within the listed building and in 6 new blocks. All of these units are designed for use by elderly people, with wheelchair access and appropriate circulation space, including within the bedrooms. Each unit will have a balcony so that residents have easy access to private outdoor space.

There will be 151 car parking spaces provided, and 10% of these will have charging points for electric vehicles. 

Do you have a story for Stand Up For Southport? Please message Andrew Brown via Facebook here or email me at: mediaandrewbrown@gmail.com

16 Comments
  1. Charlotte Smith 2 years ago

    As an ex Birkdale school pupil I broadly welcome the new proposals. Just a few points though. Will a nod be made to the past history of the school? Will ex pupils be given special discounted rates if they elect to spend their twilight years here? Will care and due consideration be given to the fact that ashes were scattered on the site of an ex pupil who died?

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