Ridge Lea Hospital, Lancaster
Built in 1916, Ridge Lea Hospital was originally designed to be a separate women’s unit to the nearby Lancaster Moor mental asylum. It went on to become part of the Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust as a mental health hospital and operationally closed in September 2016.
Lancaster was the fourth county to establish an asylum following the 1808 County Asylums Act and a site to the west of the town at Lancaster was chosen, on the edge of Lancaster Moor. The hospital expanded throughout the next century and at the turn of the 1900’s new villas were added, including the Ladies Villa, which was big enough to be a small asylum in its own right.
With Lancaster Moor declining through the 1980’s, many of the buildings were sold or demolished including the farms which were sold to the prison service where HMP Lancaster Farms is today. During this period, admissions were planned to remain onsite and were moved to the former Ladies’ Villa, which later became Ridge Lea Hospital.
Following the closure of the main site, the original buildings were later converted for residential use with newer extensions demolished. The villas were demolished in 2013 to make way for 200 new homes however mental health services continued to operate from Ridge Lea, the only original part of the hospital to continue providing mental health care.
Ridge Lea operated until the site closed in September 2016 where it has since been targeted by vandals, leaving the site in a poor condition. Seemore Properties purchased the site in November 2021 and submitted plans to demolish the site however these were refused by the council due to a lack of information on how it would affect bats and the woodland around the site. In January 2022 the council used emergency powers to designate Lancaster Moor as a conservation area.
Birmingham-based Seemore Properties purchased the freehold of the land in November 2021. Citing security risks and liability concerns, landowners Seemore Properties had asked the council for permission to knock down the old Hospital only to be refused due to insufficient information regarding environmental impacts in the proposal.
If the demolition request had been approved, work would have begun on taking down the former hospital in March 2022, with a tentative completion date of 30 June 2022. Seemore Properties said it would recycle any material that was eligible, sending off anything that cannot be recycled to be disposed of at the Suez facility off Ovangle Road in Lancaster.
“We believe that the architectural and historic quality of buildings on Lancaster Moor fully justify Conservation Area status,” said Councillor Gina Dowding, cabinet member with responsibility for planning. “Before making that decision, however, we would normally ask the public for their views, but due to urgent circumstances were unable to do so back in January.”