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Published on: Viability

Bring Back the Workhouses – With Viability

I know – it’s not much of a picture is it? It’s not much of a building either but we are proud to be associated with it.

This is part of St Edmund’s Hospital in Northampton. It is an early example of the architect Sir George Gilbert Scott part of which is Grade II listed.  It was built as a workhouse in 1837, converted to a hospital during the 1930’s and operated by the NHS until closure in 1998.

As the Workhouse was converted to a hospital, additional buildings were added including an infirmary, school, gatehouse and nurses home. Following closure in 1998 all buildings fell into disrepair and suffered continued vandalism.

So in 1998 we had a town centre site of 1.6 hectares ripe for redevelopment. Since then various planning permissions were granted and, although a vacant part of the site was developed to provide new build retail, leisure and residential units, no viable scheme could be found for the conversion of vacant existing buildings. For 18 years.

With that type of planning background only a very brave developer would take on the challenge.

Step forward Kayalef. They put forward an innovative scheme to demolish the 1930’s buildings at the rear to allow a comprehensive redevelopment of the site to provide a new care village. The original Grade II listed workhouse would be refurbished and extended to provide sheltered apartments. The prohibitive costs of such a refurbishment would be covered by the new build dementia care and residential care facilities at the rear.

Our role in all this was to provide the feasibility and viability support for the cross-subsidy of the refurbishment by the new build. This did not involve our usual affordable housing and Section 106 reviews – this was purely about using viability to demonstrate the need for the new build to allow the refurbishment of the listed building.

And we successfully did that. Planning permission was granted in June this year. The development is already underway and we are proud of our part in helping to bring a scheme forward after 18 years.

But in fairness all the credit should go to Kayalef. They have taken on a really difficult site with an appalling planning history and had the vision, skill and determination to secure consent. They have a viable scheme which includes the restoration of a beautiful building.  They deserve every success with this project.

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