Woolton Veterinary Centre – South Liverpool

Extension to Existing Veterinary Practice/Conversion of Residential, 2022

Woolton Vets are an independent, family run veterinary practice, who, when we met the team, were seeking to improve their existing facility by expanding into and converting the house next door – that they also happened to live in! Always with the potential for the expansion into the house at the back of their mind, Alex and Sarah McVey, owners of the practice, contacted us when the time was right to help them achieve their goal. Already well established in the local community, the vets did not want to stop their vital services during the project, and therefore remained open throughout.

Their existing practice and the residential property next door, were both Grade II listed buildings, and located within the Woolton Village conservation area. From the onset, we knew that the project would be steered by strict planning constraints, which involved frequent discussions with the Local Heritage Authority. Whereas planning officers are usually not concerned with the details of minor alterations to a property, a conservation area comes with numerous constraints. In Woolton Vets’ case this included not being able to use solar panels, only having a choice of two colours for the front door, and preserving the existing window detail, which we achieved by improving the timber double glazing with Georgian bars.

Despite the strict planning regulations, the vets had a charming set of two buildings – the stone of which was taken from a large quarry that also supplied the stone for Liverpool cathedral – with enormous potential for an improved space. The only potential barrier we identified within the residential property, was the low ceiling heights in the basement, meaning that the vets could not expand their existing clinical area into it. Thankfully, this was overcome by working closely with the vets to design a new layout, where the clinical space was relocated to the first floor, retaining client facing areas on the ground floor and moving animal wards and staff suites to the basement. We also included a  bespoke platform lift into the design so that this would be achievable.

As the construction works, which were phased to prevent disruption to the clinic, grew closer to completion, potential setbacks with the existing services were uncovered. This included rotten joists to the rear roof and faults with the foul water drainage system. Although converting residential into veterinary is not for the faint hearted, we had the right tools and experience to get the project over the line. With our direction, the contractors were able to repair these problems on site without creating delays, or causing the practice to close at any stage.

Despite these hurdles, which included the covid-19 pandemic complicating and delaying building works, Woolton Vets have been happily and successfully operating out of their expanded practice since October of 2022. ACD are thrilled for the team, patients and clients who will experience the benefits of the fantastic practice for a long time to come.

Woolton Vets won a President's Award for the Ingenious Merger of Two Properties at the Practice Design Awards 2023