Historic York psychiatric home in line for transformation by Manchester developer

The Retreat

An historic former psychiatric centre in York is in line to be transformed into a housing scheme by the Manchester-based PJ Livesey Group.

A contract has been agreed on the sale of The Retreat, a 40 acre site on Heslington Road, subject to a successful planning application.

The Retreat opened in 1796 and offered pioneering psychiatric care from the Religious Society of Friends, otherwise known as the Quakers.

It closed to in-patients in 2018.

PJ Livesey is promising extensive public consultation over its plans for the site.

The company’s development director, James Woodmansee, said: “The exchange of contracts is a significant milestone and marks the start of formal and informal consultation on the future legacy of The Retreat.

“We hope to be able to convert the Grade II-listed buildings into residential which will provide new homes while preserving their beautiful exterior while also strategically placing some new build houses, discreetly on the site. These will include some affordable homes.”

He said the extensive grounds include a tennis court, a cricket pitch and bowling green which are currently rarely used but the developer said it will consult with local clubs and groups about their future use.

He added: “The orchard and daffodil meadow will remain and we would hope to retain the spirit of The Retreat which offered a place of calm restoration with the creation of a peace and tranquility garden which would be open to all.

“We are hugely respectful of the Quaker history at The Retreat and we are already in discussions with a newly formed heritage group on how best to be able to record and celebrate that legacy.”

The heritage group includes representatives from a number of bodies, such as Friends’ groups, and will advise PJ Livesey on the important historical elements of the site.

PJ Livesey founder and managing director, Peter Livesey, said: “The Heslington Road site is hugely important, both architecturally and socially and we will bring all our expertise and passion to this project working with the Quakers, the community and heritage experts to secure its future.”

David Robson, the clerk and chair of the Retreat Board, said: “We are confident that the historical heritage and legacy of the site will be retained, and perhaps enhanced and will support the process for achieving these plans to be outlined by PJ Livesey over the coming year.”

The first informal public consultation events are expected to be held on site next month.

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