Knutsford Memorial House Hospital

Demolition looms for Knutsford hospital

McCarthy & Stone is set to secure planning consent for a retirement living scheme off Northwich Road in Knutsford, which will see the demolition of the locally-listed Memorial House, a former hospital dating to 1922.

The retirement living developer is proposing to knock down the existing buildings on the site and replace them with 46 one-and-two-bed apartments arranged in a three-and-a-half storey I-shaped block, alongside car parking, and a war memorial garden for public use.

Access to the site will be via Northwich Road to the south, while the north of the site is bordered by fields to the east and west.

Memorial House, a locally-listed building designed by architect Sir Percy Worthington and built in 1922, was formerly used as a hospital but has been used by the British Red Cross since 1996. The Red Cross sold the building to McCarthy & Stone after it was put on the market in February 2016, as the charity found it no longer viable to operate the site.

The proposals by McCarthy & Stone have been met with opposition from local residents, with 98 letters of objection put forward to Cheshire East planners. Many of these objections centre around the loss of the hospital.

McCarthy & Stone Knutsford Hospital 2

A public war memorial garden forms part of the proposals

Knutsford Town Council has not outright objected to the scheme but has asked for other uses for the existing buildings “be fully explored by the applicant” before any demolition comes forward.

Cheshire East planners have recommended the project for approval when its Northern planning committee meets this Wednesday, subject to a Section 106 agreement.

The planners’ report stated that under the information submitted with the planning application, the contribution would be £1.8m; however, McCarthy & Stone initially offered a contribution of £30,242, based on a viability statement.

The council then instructed Cushman & Wakefield to undertake a due diligence assessment of the developer’s viability statement; this found the developer had under-calculated the scheme’s gross development value, over-stated construction costs, and had applied “excessive land value” to the site, as well as providing “no justification” of proposed site clearance costs.

Following this, an agreement was reached to provide a Section 106 agreement of more than £600,000.

Recommending the project for approval, Cheshire East planners said the loss of the existing buildings on site would amount to “a less than substantial level of harm”, taking into account feedback from Historic England, and the fact that the building is “not suitable for any viable uses going forward”.

Cheshire East’s planning committee is due to make a decision on the proposals on 10 October.

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Developments such as thus should be welcomed. However, McCarthy and Stone need to show some REAL imagination by finding alternative uses for such historic and attractive buildings. What the site foes not need is banality, an assembly if buildings that are the same as those in Milton Keynes and other such locations. Knutsford deserves better.

By Roy G Cjapmaw

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