Thornhill retirement village gets green light from Derry planning committee

A major redevelopment at the old Thornhill College site in Derry was approved by the local council's planning committee this afternoon.

An artist's impression of part of the retirement village.
An artist's impression of part of the retirement village.

Councillors rubber-stamped a proposal to build a retirement village on the derelict Culmore Road site.

Under the proposals the existing school buildings will be developed as a community hub building, Community Services Buildings and site warden building.

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A 57 bed care home and 53 semi-independent living units are to be built within the existing built footprint.

The former school tennis courts will be remodelled to provide residents with an amenity and allotment area.

SDLP Colr. Angela Dobbins said: “I am delighted that these plans are finally in position to commence. The proposal for a retirement village within the former college site has been in process for some while now.

"People are living longer now according to research and already existing retirement areas are proving successful.

"This is an ideal setting for those in 'sunset' years with its riverside walkways and countryside setting. I welcome the thought put into these plans to provide a quality residential environment, whilst protecting the natural habitat and trees and the local character of this highly valued scenic location has not been compromised."

Sinn Féin Colr. Sandra Duffy said: "Great news to have the Thornhill Retirement Village finally approved [by the] planning committee. This has been so long in the making with huge interest in this development. A key site along the Foyle and a start on the regeneration of our riverfront. Can’t wait to see the diggers on site."

Under the plans presented to members of the committee, the applicant set out how the proposal plans to remodel the former school tennis courts to provide residents with an amenity/allotment area while there are plans in place to remodel the former tarmacked hardstanding to provide a formal landscape area. The redevelopment plans also set out how they intend to remodel the site path network and all associated access including parking, drainage and landscape enhancement works.

Representation from the applicant that was presented at the meeting was given consideration by members.

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Elected members attending the meeting were advised by Council Planning officials that the proposal has been considered in respect of the requirements of the Derry Area Plan (DAP 2011), SPPS, PPS 2, 3, 6, 7, 15, 21 and consultation responses and recommended approval subject to a number of restrictions. They were also reminded that the application and site is subject to a Section 76 planning agreement previously approved at outline which restricts the proposal to this specialised use.

Chairperson of the Planning Committee Colr. Philip McKinney welcoming the decision said the Thornhill site was one of the city’s most historic sites and it would be good to see it returned to working use after being disused since the school relocated in 2003.

“This is another major step forward for this important redevelopment site that is located in an area of high scenic value. The proposed redevelopment will not only restore the site to its former glory but it will also help address the growing demand for this type of bespoke accommodation for older persons in our community. “