PLANS have been formally submitted for the conversion of York’s former psychiatric hospital Bootham Park into a 170-home retirement complex.

Retirement community developer Enterprise Retirement Living (ERL) said a planning application had been lodged following ‘extensive consultation’.

The plans would secure the future of the historic site, said ERL – as well as leading to ‘major improvements to the parkland and completion of the Scarborough Bridge to York Hospital cycle and pedestrian routes’.

The plans submitted are broadly similar to the proposals first unveiled for consultation in March.

Under the proposals, the Grade 1-listed main building, designed by architect John Carr and opened in 1777 as a purpose-built psychiatric hospital, would be converted into independent-living apartments.

Some other buildings on the 18-acre site – including the Victorian ‘pauper wing’ – would be demolished and replaced with ‘sympathetic new development’.

“In total there are 170 planned new homes on the site, specifically for older people in need of care and support, which includes access to 24-hour care,” said ERL.

York Press:

Computer-generated image showing a new waljkway in the grounds at Bootham park

The complex would also feature a wellness centre, dining room, fruit and vegetable garden, a cinema room, a hobby room, games room, a library and lounges, an exercise studio, staff and guest accommodation, as well as a bistro which ERL says will be open to the public.

There would also be improvements to the eight acres of parkland which form part of the site, ERL says. This would be ‘opened up for public use’, with public access encouraged.

There would be woodland trails, picnic areas, sensory gardens and edible planting, as well as possibly space for community events.

NHS Property Services, which currently owns the site, has committed to funding improvements to the parkland, ERL says.

Next-door Bootham School would be responsible for maintaining the parkland and ‘will invest in providing and promoting the use of new informal sports pitches to other local schools and community groups’.

York Press:

A watercolour image released in March showing how the 'improved' parkland may look

The school’s Bursar Gavin Blackstone said: “As a school with nearly 200 years history in York, we are delighted to share in the responsibility of opening up public access to the parkland and enabling local sports clubs and schools to use the new sports pitches. We have worked hard with the City Council, ERL and NHS Property Services to deliver a long-term sustainable solution for this important site.”

ERL says it will also restore historic gates and railings across the site, including those on Bootham itself, and will provide an area for air ambulance landing.

ERL development manager Peter Martin said: “A huge amount of work has gone into consulting, designing, and submitting our planning application. Over many months we have worked hard with NHS Property Services, the council and other stakeholders to ensure the plans offer maximum benefits to York and can provide a solution to bringing this unique site back into sustainable use.”

York Press:

A computer-generated imnage of the proposed new retirement complex

But York Central MP Rachael Maskell said the plans were a missed opportunity to put a former hospital used by York people for generations to good public use.

The retirement apartments planned would be ‘high end’, she said – and beyond the reach of most people. “I don’t think that is going to talk to a lot of people in York.”

She also questioned how much public access there would be to the parkland on days when Bootham School children were using it for sports.

“It is really important that people do have access,” she said. “It is in a community where there is a lot of deprivation and not much public green space.”

Bootham Park closed abruptly as a psychiatric hospital in September 2015 after Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspectors raised serious concerns over safety risks.

Inpatients were sent elsewhere – some as far away as Middlesbrough.