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Plans deferred for major development of Victorian lunatic asylum

24 May 2024 3 minute read
North Wales Hospital Denbigh. Photo Llywelyn2000, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Richard Evans, local democracy reporter

Plans for a major development on the site of a Victorian Grade II listed former lunatic asylum, have been deferred.

Jones Bros Ruthin Development Holding Limited want to develop the former North Wales Hospital site in Denbigh, which has been owned by the council since 2018, following a compulsory purchase order.

Designed by architect Thomas Fulljames, the construction of the hospital started in 1844 and was completed in 1848.

Initially it was used as an asylum for up to 200 people with psychiatric illness. By the mid-20th century, it housed 1,500 patients.

The hospital finally closed in 1995, but the development company is seeking permission to convert, restore, part demolish, and adapt the main listed buildings into 34 apartments, with two new access points.

300 units

Outline permission is also sought for 300 ‘units’ on nine hectares of land for residential development.

The plans also include provision for 1,114 square metres of business units on the land.

Two proposed scenarios have been put forward as part of the plans, both retaining the ‘main range’ hospital building and chapel whilst ‘scenario two’ also proposes retaining the Aled Ward.

It is envisaged the public funding will come from grants and the North Wales Growth Fund (NWGF).

But planning officers asked the committee to defer the application whilst further details around the application are agreed.

That’s because officers are still finalising a section 106 agreement to agree the ‘phasing’ of works to the main hospital building and chapel as well as the release of capital from the sale of land.

But Cllr Merfyn Parry feared delaying the project.

“This is a big application in Denbighshire, probably one of the biggest we’ve had for years,” he said.

“It’s so important that this is pushed through quicker. There are funding risks involved from Welsh Government and from UK Government to whether this application happens, so I’m against deferring this one.”

Further details

But planning officer Paul Mead said officers were advising the committee to defer the application so further details could be finalised, adding that funding was not at risk.

“What officers are trying to do is protect the council’s interest from a potential judicial review perspective,” he said.

“There are always legal risks of going through a democratic process like planning committee where maybe not a sufficient amount of clarity is being given to members on detail, so that’s fundamentally why we are looking for deferral today.

“To reassure members, we are very close in relation to this detail, so it’s not going to be six months, 12 months further down the line when we do come back. We are hoping it can be next month or the month after, so we are very close in terms of finalising the detail, but it is protecting the council’s interest in terms of the council’s interest today.”

He added, “I understand there are concerns about funding that have been raised there in terms of one of the propositions to not defer today, but again I’d emphasise the information that I’ve had with meetings with Ambition North Wales and other funders in relation to this is that this delay from this planning committee won’t affect the funding. The funding is not at risk in relation to this.”

The application was deferred 14 votes for to four against and will be redebated at a future planning committee meeting.

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