Bootham Hospital scheme approved despite ‘substantial harm’ caused by demolitions
York’s Bootham Park Hospital – “a jewel in the crown” of the city – is to be turned into accommodation for the elderly after councillors voted for approval.
But it will require the demolition of the grade two-listed ‘pauper wings’, which caused concern to members of York Council’s planning committee.
The Grade I listed John Carr building and the majority of its grand internal fittings will be retained.
Enterprise Retirement Living’s (ERL) scheme will see the 18-acre site – which opened in 1777 as a pioneering ‘lunatic asylum’ – turned into 172 units for older people with 24-hour staffing support.
Peter Martin, speaking for ERL, said there was a dearth of assisted living accommodation for the elderly in York.
“There is clear evidence that living in an integrated retirement community reduces the need for care, the cost to social care providers and the NHS, and improves their quality of life,” he added.
The council’s conservation architect, David Carruthers, said the destruction of the pauper wings would cause “substantial harm” and described the design of the new buildings as “too generic”. The estate cottages will also be demolished.
Mr Martin said the developer had tried but failed to find a design which would retain the pauper wings, which date to 1862, so they were “sacrificed for the benefit of the site as a whole”.
He said the firm had undertaken its own research on every remaining hospital pauper wing in England, which found that Bootham’s were not exceptional.
“Historic England and the conservation office agree with us that they weren’t of sufficient merit to frustrate the larger, sustainable redevelopment of the site,” he added.
‘Private sale – public good?’
Cllr Michael Pavlovic said the planning committee members were “custodians of the heritage of the city” and voted against the scheme.
Cllr Katie Lomas added: “I’m not convinced that this development, with destruction of grade-two listed buildings, is the way that we put this site back into use.”
Councillors were told that a benefit of the scheme is that it would formalise public access to the parkland and allow for the creation of two football pitches, with £2m spent on landscaping the grounds.
The pitches will be primarily used by Bootham School, which will allow state schools and the public to use them at certain times.
Cllr Pete Kilbane said: “Most of the public good that’s been put forward already exists – you can already access those fields and you can play sports openly on the fields without having to book it through a private school first.
“I’m not convinced that creating private accommodation for private sale is a public good.”
Most councillors had some reservations, but the majority said the scheme was worth approving to safeguard the John Carr building’s future.
Cllr Tony Fisher said: “If we don’t act soon and bring this back into use and get it updated, we could suffer harm to that building – which is the core building of the whole complex.”
Cllr Paul Doughty added: “In terms of what I initially anticipated might come forward, I couldn’t see beyond it being either luxury apartments for, let’s face it, the rich, or luxurious hotel accommodation with apartments in the grounds.
“So this for me is probably the best we’re going to get.”
Councillors also asked for more recognition of Bootham’s significance in the history of mental health treatment in the new design. Currently, there are only plans for a blue plaque.
I was told that the field/grounds could not be used because it was Yorks’s designated place for emergency aircraft landing and space for emergency helicopters.