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The Durham-based, award-winning architecture practice, Howarth Litchfield, has succeeded in securing planning consent and getting construction work underway in record time at Brooklands Way, Boldon Business Park for a new veterinary business.

Called Bridge Referrals, the business has been formed by five vets who have come together from various practices in the region to establish the new venture.

Howarth Litchfield began work in October 2021 to start the planning process, working closely with South Tyneside Council to obtain consent.  The project also required permission for change of use, enabling the existing industrial unit to be developed into premises capable of operating as a veterinary centre as it was not earmarked for this class of use.

Howarth Litchfield was recommended for the project due to its experience within the sector.  With the ability to draw on this expertise, as well as manage a complex brief in demanding timescales and secure a suitable contractor to build out the scheme, Howarth Litchfield was ideally suited to the task.

Appointed as architect, interior designer and principal designer, Howarth Litchfield succeeded in obtaining change of use and planning consent within six months and lost no time in ensuring a contractor was in place to begin construction work at the beginning of April.

After a review of the current market, matched with client requirements for a trusted contractor with veterinary experience, Sunderland-based Brims Construction were appointed on the £1.4m project. Its team was able to provide immediate resource to get the seven-month project completed by November.  

Commenting on the scheme, architect and director of Howarth Litchfield, Neil Turner, said:

“This is an interesting and challenging project.  As with any new business start-up there has been an impetus from the outset to secure change of use and planning consent for the redevelopment of the existing unit in as short a timeframe as possible.

“We are pleased to be working with Brims again as we have a sound working relationship with the team and respect each other’s work style.  We felt it important to select a contractor with expertise in  this market so that we could negotiate the contract.  Ian Clift, a director of Brims, has collaborated with us over the design and will be responsible for delivery of the M&E services working with InfraNorth, a group of building services engineers who specialise in all aspects of critical facility engineering.

“It is a tight timescale with completion expected for November, but things are progressing well so far, and I believe we have an effective team in place to successfully deliver on the build programme.”

Howarth Litchfield and Brims have incorporated an air source heating and ventilation system into the design to deliver a sustainable solution for the converted building and for speed, all the services will be contained above the ceilings with dry construction methods adopted for the walls.  

Howarth Litchfield will also be responsible for designing the interior spaces – both a challenging and complex task when redeveloping a deep plan industrial shed for use as offices, consulting rooms and an operating theatre.

Bridge Referral’s Darren Long, Director and Clinician in Internal Medicine and Oncology, is delighted with the progress to date.  He said:  “This is an incredibly exciting time for me and my colleagues as we see our dream of owning and operating our own veterinary practice so rapidly becoming a reality.

“We are impressed by the speed at which Neil and his team have not only secured planning consent for us but have also been able to appoint a contractor and professional team who could begin work immediately. 

“Initially, we will start providing 24-hour care for small animals – a service which we will extend in range and complexity as time goes on to incorporate more surgery and diagnostic work.”

Richard Wood, director at Brims, added:  “We’ve been working with both Howarth Litchfield and Bridge Referrals for some time now to pull together a scheme and budget that meets the client requirements, so it’s great to see everyone’s hard work coming to fruition and construction finally being able to get underway.”

Other members of the professional team are TGA Consulting Engineers, appointed to monitor the M&E services design and installation on behalf of Bridge Referrals while structural and civil engineering consultancy, CK21, will advise on the structural engineering aspects of the finished design.   

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