Cat burglars beware as North East architectural practice Howarth Litchfield (HL) is set to help transform Bellingham’s former Police Station into a state-of-the-art veterinary surgery, after recently securing planning consent from Northumberland County Council for its conversion.

The award-winning practice has been appointed by Orchard House Veterinary Care to help expand its existing service into the North Tyne Valley. Further to gaining consent, the project has also been commended by Northumberland County Council for not only providing a new lease of life to a disused building, but also new jobs for the area.

Founded in 1998 by Tim Pearson, Orchard House currently has surgeries in Hexham and Stocksfield and for the last five years has operated a successful mobile service, allowing the practice to cover more rural locations.

Identifying the North Tyne Valley as an area for expansion, Tim Pearson has selected the former Bellingham Police Station on Fountain View as the site for his next surgery. Tim Pearson appointed HL because of their practical experience of both the healthcare sector and restoring older buildings, he said:

“Howarth Litchfield has a wide range of knowledge and skills from other building projects and existing experience of healthcare projects like medical centres in the local area. I have been very happy with the service from Neil and his team, patiently reviewing the plans to give us exactly what we want and providing a fantastic range of contacts to help with specialist reports and planning.

“Having a permanent base in Bellingham will be beneficial for those clients who travel from the Borders, as it will reduce the distance they need to travel to get expert advice while also reducing the stress levels of their pets as they won’t be travelling for too long.

Managing the project throughout, the practice has assisted Orchard House from the planning and surveying work right through to the building and interior design as well as the appointment of a contractor.

The plans for the new surgery include retaining the existing façade and downstairs reception rooms to provide a comfortable waiting room and two consultation rooms, whilst conserving the period character of the building. The original cells will also see a new lease of life as the onsite kennels and cattery for patient recovery. Interior details such as cell doors and windows will be maintained, but significant renovations will be made to maximise animal welfare and provide long term durability.

A major part of the plans concerns the rear of the building, where an existing extension will be demolished to make way for a brand new operating theatre and patient prep room.

Highly experienced in conversions of this type, Northumberland-based contractor Smailes Construction, has recently been awarded the contract to deliver the project, which will see the firm transform a disused building into a high-tech surgery offering the latest equipment, including advanced LED operating lights and digital dental radiography, to provide the best available in veterinary care.

Once on site, Smailes is expected to take approximately four months to complete the project.

Director Neil Turner of HL, said:

“We are delighted to be involved with this project. Under a negotiated contract Smailes Construction has been selected as the preferred contractor and they have worked hard to establish a team ethos that matches our own and Tim’s, allowing key decisions on the scope of the project to be easily made.”

David Smailes commented further saying:

“A conversion project of this type is a great example of the work Smailes Construction undertakes on a regular basis.  Working directly with the client and the architect is, in my opinion, the best way to deliver schemes of this type and size and we are very much looking forward to commencing work soon.”

The project has also been praised for its green credentials through the use of renewables air source heating in conjunction with underfloor heating and a natural zinc roof to contrast with the original slate. Furthermore, it will positively benefit the local economy through the formation of three new jobs: a veterinary surgeon, a nurse and a full time receptionist.

Looking ahead, Orchard House is looking to relocate its existing Hexham surgery to larger premises following the completion of this project.