Plans to turn former Washington school building into specialist accommodation for adults

An old school building in Washington could be transformed into specialist accommodation for adults with learning difficulties under new plans.

Wednesday, 2nd June 2021, 6:46 pm
The ‘Old School Building,’ Albert Place, Columbia, Washington Picture: Google

Last October, Sunderland City Council lodged a planning application with its own planning department for the building off Albert Place in the Washington Central ward.

Plans included refurbishing and extending the disused school building to form ‘15 residential accommodation units with support.’

A design, access and heritage statement from the council said the accommodation aims to provide a “safe environment for residents who may be transitioning toward independent living, but are still in need of some level of support services.”

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Prior to the planning application being submitted, the council carried out consultation with local residents which led to changes to parking arrangements on site.

Since the plans were validated by planners on May 25, 2021, the application has gone out to consultation with a decision expected by the end of August.

Three new single-storey building extensions are proposed to make way for the development, which is expected to be owned and managed by the city council.

According to planning documents, the 15 single-bedroom units aim to meet specialist housing needs for adults with learning difficulties and will each contain individual kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and living areas.

Applicants say the accommodation would cater for users in the medium or long-term and that it was “important for the design to allow a sense of ownership and familiarity to be gained by residents.”

The development also includes a proposed meeting room to be used by either support staff or as a “safe space for residents to hold personal meetings, for instance with care or support staff.”

In addition, overnight accommodation for supporting staff is planned which would “facilitate 24hr support if required.”

Planning documents outline the history of the school which was built in circa 1893 and originally known as Biddick School before being renamed and later closing in the 1990s.

Planners confirmed that the site was last occupied by the ‘Washington Church of Christ’ but is now understood to be vacant.

Although the old school is classed as a non-designated heritage asset, the council states that its “age and character make it notable within the context.”

The design, access and heritage statement reads: “The proposals are for the conversion and extension to the Old School, Albert Place into 15 bespoke units.

“The design responds sensitively to the historic structure while enhancing it with contemporary extensions that enclose a beautiful, landscaped communal courtyard promoting a sense of well-being for residents.”

For more information on the application or to track its progress, visit: online-applications.sunderland.gov.uk/online-applications and search reference: 20/02026/LP3

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