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Public Consultation on the Future of Historic York Site

The Retreat, York, has agreed a formal contract on the sale of its 40 acre Heslington Road site to the specialist developer, the PJ Livesey Group.

The sale is conditional on a successful planning application and PJ Livesey is promising extensive public consultation with the local community, heritage organisations and local interest groups on how best to give the estate and its historic buildings a new future.

The Retreat offered pioneering psychiatric care when it was opened by the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), in 1796. It closed to in-patients in 2018.

James Woodmansee, Development Director with PJ Livesey 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.

“The extensive grounds include a tennis court, a cricket pitch and bowling green which are currently rarely used and we hope to speak to local clubs and groups about their future use.

“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 tranquillity 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 has representatives from a number of bodies, including Friends’ groups, and will advise PJ Livesey on the important historical elements of the site.

The Manchester based company has four decades experience in refurbishing and converting some of the country’s most significant heritage buildings and is currently working on the Terry’s Chocolate Factory site on a project that will soon see the original Clock Tower brought back into working order.

Founder and Managing Director Peter Livesey: “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 delighted to have agreed to transfer this historical Quaker asset to the care of PJ Livesey and have been excited by their vision of what the site may become.

“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.

Posted – Tuesday 22 February 2022



Friday 17th December 2021, The Retreat York and PJ Livesey exchanged contracts on the sale of Heslington Road Estate.

Posted – Wednesday 22 December 2021



Potential Themes for Heritage Exploration @ Heslington Road Estate:

A group of interested parties in the history and legacy of The Retreat @ Heslington Road met in December 2021 to discuss their personal connections to Heslington Road and to share views on the real opportunities offered by sympathetic development of the site.

The group included preservation interests, museum and educational trusts, the parish council and local Quakers interested in retaining the Quaker story of the Retreat @ Heslington Road.

The key themes to be explored with PJ Livesey, the potential developer, included:

1. More community and public access to the site to experience the legacy and tranquil surroundings

2. Retention and protection of heritage assets, including ancient monuments, items and locations of interest and the York Quaker Burial Grounds.

3. Educational opportunities to bring the rich History of The Retreat in the story of treatment of Mental Health development globally and the role the site has played in the Quaker History of York.

4. How the Site, as a place, can connect to other Historical attributes of the City of York and its plans for further heritage developments.

The Group, with the support and input from other parties, will continue to explore these themes further in early 2022 alongside PJ Livesey. 

Anyone interested in the work of the group or who would like to be considered in joining the group should contact the “contact us” page on the Heslington Road Estate Website.

Contact Us | Heslington Road Estate

Posted – Wednesday 22 December 2021



The Retreat, York, signs new lease with leading brain injury charity

Mental health services provider The Retreat has agreed a new lease with brain injury charity The Disabilities Trust on its Heslington Road site.

The new arrangement will see York House continue to be used as a specialist neurobehavioural assessment and post-acute rehabilitation unit for people with acquired brain injury (ABI) until 2023, when The Disabilities Trust is set to move to a new purpose-built facility close to the Knavesmire.

Dr Kim Bevan, Chief Officer, Clinical Services, at The Retreat said: “We’re delighted to continue to offer a home to The Disabilities Trust’s services and will be working closely with them to ensure that their important work on site continues until they are ready to relocate.

“At the same time, we are further developing and growing our own psychological therapy and neurodevelopmental face-to-face services for children and for adults in York, Strensall and Manchester and our online services on a nationwide basis.”

Last month the Retreat appointed PJ Livesey Group, a specialist in refurbishing iconic buildings, as preferred supplier to develop the site of its former psychiatric hospital. The 40-acre estate, which features the main building that opened in 1796 by the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), closed to inpatients at the end of 2018.

Further information can be found at www.heslingtonroadestate.co.uk

Posted – Wednesday 6 October 2021



Retreat names preferred supplier for Heslington Road redevelopment

The Retreat York has appointed the PJ Livesey Group, a specialist in refurbishing iconic buildings, as preferred supplier to develop the site of its former psychiatric hospital on Heslington Road.

The 40-acre plot, which features a main building opened in 1796 by the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), closed to inpatients at the end of 2018.  It was offered for sale by The Retreat in September last year as part of a wider reconfiguration of services which included the opening of a new children’s outpatient unit in Strensall and the expansion of adult services into the North West of England.

The sale does not encompass all of the buildings in the Heslington Road estate, and The Retreat will continue to deliver services from Heslington Road as part of their adult neurodevelopmental and psychological assessment and therapy services.

PJ Livesey Group’s bid was selected following a competitive process and, subject to formal ratification by the Retreat’s Board of Trustees, the two parties will enter formal contract negotiations.

The initial proposal for the site is for residential development featuring a proportion of affordable housing and a number of initiatives to enhance public access to parts of the Retreat’s wider estate.

Chair/Clerk of The Retreat’s Trustees, David Robson said: “We’re delighted to have made this important next step in the development of this historic site.”

“During the selection process we were particularly impressed with PJ Livesey Group’s track record in developing similarly iconic buildings and their commitment to working with us to  involve the local community in the development of the parts of our estate that will remain accessible for public use.”

“Protecting the Quaker legacy of the site and providing facilities which benefit local people and our local communities has always been uppermost in our considerations.”

Based in Manchester the PJ Livesey Group has four decades experience refurbishing and converting some of the country’s most significant heritage buildings.

Founder and Managing Director Peter Livesey: “The Heslington Road site is hugely important, both architecturally and socially and we are very proud to have been selected.

“We will bring all our expertise and passion to this site working with the Quakers, the community and heritage experts to secure its future.”

The Group has previously converted the Terry’s Chocolate factory building in York into award winning apartments and is currently working on the site’s clock tower which will see new homes, as well as the iconic Terry’s clock brought back to full working order.

PJ Livesey Development Director James Woodmansee said: “We will engage in a thorough pre-planning application process with City of York Council, Historic England, conservation groups, local residents and other key stakeholders. If matters progress well it is hoped that an application would be submitted in the first quarter of 2022.”

Further information can be found at www.heslingtonroadestate.co.uk

Posted – Monday 16 August 2021


JUNE 2021


Further to the decision by the Board of Directors of The Retreat York (company number 4325622/charity number 1089826) (“Retreat”) to explore the possibility of selling part or the whole of, the land and buildings, known as the Heslington Road Estate, the land has now been marketed and a number of bids have been received and evaluated.

The aim of the sale is to further the charitable objects of the Retreat and the marketing process has adhered to the Charities Act 2011 and the statutory obligations which the Retreat is subject to when considering the sale of land.

The Retreat has sought and is receiving marketing advice from Messrs Savills plc and legal advice from Messrs DLA Piper UK LLP.

The overriding objective for the Retreat is (should a sale proceed) to secure funds to support it to relieve “persons suffering from mental illness (including, but without limitation, persons who are members of the Religious Society of Friends)” in line with its agreed charitable objects.

A summary of the current position in respect of the marketing process is below:

  1. Proposals were received from 7 bidders – 1 bid was not perused as it was not to standard.
  2. The proposals were carefully evaluated, supplementary information given out when sought and four bidders were shortlisted.
  3. The four shortlisted bidders have been invited to submit best and final bids and will be given the opportunity to present their bids in person to the Board.
  4. Following the presentations, the Board will carefully consider all the bids and decide which (if any) of the bidders should be awarded preferred bidder status.
  5. The aim would then be to agree detailed ‘Heads of Terms’ with the preferred bidder, prior to entering into a legally binding contract.
  6. As part of the evaluation process, the financial aspects of the bids, together with other factors, including the bidders’ proposals for the green space, preserving the Quaker history and legacy, will be considered as follows: –


  • The Development of the Estate at Heslington Road is to facilitate and support this mission and in so doing, must align to the onward development of The Retreat’s mental health services and maximise the value of its assets to support these services. Though this must be the prime objective in developing the Estate, the Board is also mindful of the obligations the Estate has as a central and special part of the history of Quakers in York and of the impact William Tuke’s Vision had on Quakerism in the UK, Mental Health globally and on the people in York.
  • The Board continues to value this legacy and when exploring the short-listed Developers’ proposals, will look to see which ones can support the objects and maintain the Quaker legacy. Some of these topics are outlined here:
    • Management of Green Spaces, access to these spaces and protection of the “Registered Park and Gardens
    • Understanding the Site Historical attributes for development
    • Examples of alignment to Strong Quaker legacy and links to the original purposes of the site.
    • Use of Heslington Road Estate as a community asset.
    • Offer of sustainable credentials of any development and possible “Iconic” Status for Heslington Road transformation.
    • Supportive developer Interactions: Communication, Consultation, Engagement intentions
    • Degree of planning confidence and Development realisation.

Posted – Friday 25 June 2021


MARCH 2021

The Board of The Retreat York is working with advisors and potential developers to consider the future of the Heslington Road Estate (HRE) site. The following process, to achieve a successful development opportunity, have been considered by the Board at its March 2021 meeting

  • That the Board will consider offers which best meet the requirements as outlined in The Retreat York prospectus for re-development
  • That the evaluation of bids places significant but not determinative weight on offers that can be supported by a confidential Qualified Surveyors report
  • That the Working Group of The Retreat York, Messrs Savills, and Messrs DLA Piper UK LLP be authorised to enter into non-legally binding discussions with the bidders to refine and confirm their bids and to seek appropriate offers
  • That following the submission of best bids and the evaluation of such bids a recommendation to the Board is made to confirm the short-listed bidders that have been identified
  • Once The Retreat York Board has identified a preferred Bidder, through due process, the advisors to The Retreat York will seek authorisation from the Board to negotiate Heads of Terms with the preferred bidder, and once Heads of Terms are agreed, to proceed to negotiate a sale contract.  Once a sale contract is agreed, report to the Board and seek their approval to enter into the sale agreement

Posted – Monday 22 March 2021