HPA have submitted plans for ‘Unique Kidz’ Following Overwhelming Public Support
In May 2023, HPA led a community consultation to discuss inspiring proposals for Morecambe based Charity Unique Kidz and Co to transform their building and outside space.
Following the consultation, organisations and individuals have pledged their support for these proposals, including the Chamber of Commerce, local councillors, and the MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, which has now been submitted for planning.
Denise Armer, Co-founder, Trustee and Parent, is extremely excited about the HPA’s planning proposals, stating “These proposals are the culmination of over 14 years of hard work and determination that myself and Jane, the other Co-Founder, have, for our children and other young people with disabilities to have access to the same opportunities as anyone else their age to make friends, have fun, socialise and play. This is why is it so important for the facility we have now to be able to expand and develop… this development would provide a legacy for disabled children, young adults, and their families”
Jane Halpin, Co-founder, Trustee and Parent, says, “I wholeheartedly support the planning application that is being submitted as I know the difference it will make to my daughter’s life and the lives of so many other families in the local and surrounding areas.”
Unique Kidz provides afterschool, holiday and weekend clubs for children aged 5-19 with disabilities; daytime support, evening and weekend sessions for young adults aged 18-30 with disabilities, a stay and play group for children under five, and a siblings group for children over eight who have a disabled sibling.
The charity currently has 187 disabled young people on their register. With their services close to capacity and an ever-growing waiting list, the proposals will allow them to take on more disabled young people and provide more accessible spaces that not only they, but other local groups can also benefit from. Tracey Elkington, a Trustee of Unique Kidz, explained, ‘The development of the field and building will mean we, at Unique Kidz and co., can help more individuals and families who desperately need our services. We can also help other groups and schools by providing access to these new facilities and improve the environment for those that live in the community.’
HPA has been intimately involved in the development of plans for expansion and alteration of the charity’s facility and landscaping of the site. The proposal will see the extension and refurbishment of the existing building. Additional lodges are proposed for erection within the grounds of the site to provide additional activity spaces, alongside an accessible bike track, sensory gardens and dedicated play spaces. It is important to all involved that the new scheme fits seamlessly into the local environment and a significant part of the proposal involves the landscaping of the field adjacent to Acre Moss Lane, to offer a range of activities and facilities. David Walker, also a Trustee, clarified, ‘As can be imagined, a development, such as the one proposed, with carefully managed grasses, shrubs and wetland etc. could also greatly benefit residents in addition to being of benefit to the local environment.’
The views of the community have been pivotal in shaping this proposal. Initially the staff, users and their families at Unique Kidz and Co. were engaged in the development of the brief. This helped ensure that the community and clients at Unique Kidz remained at the forefront of the design process. ‘The information gathered from such undertakings has been meticulously analysed and the findings used to inform an Action Plan’, described David Walker, ‘All of this has been ably overseen by our Architects (HPA). The Architects at HPA have been invaluable throughout this process and who (with colleagues) have produced the relevant drawings that depict our vision of the expansion necessary, not only to ensure the future of Unique Kidz and 4Ever Unique, but also, in doing so, bringing benefit the community.’
Tracey Elkington, spoke at the public consultation, enthusiastic about the project, suggested that ‘any concerns people might have had were quickly allayed once they had seen the plans and gained more of an insight having spoken to the Architects.’
Over 60 people attended the public consultation evening including neighbours, families that use the services, staff, members of our local community and key stakeholders. Attendees were encouraged to leave their feedback and comments.
Families of young people who use Unique Kidz’s services are particularly supportive, with one parent stating, ‘The use of this land is particularly relevant to me as I live next door to Unique kidz and my son currently attends Unique Kidz. I feel the new design will offer the users a lot more opportunities to be active, enjoy nature, relax, bring together the local community, support wildlife, provide a safe sensory area, as well as boosting imagination and creativity.
We particularly like the dipping pool area and the cycle track, as well as the additional lodges. It would be fabulous my son’s health and wellbeing to have a large safe space for him to enjoy.’
Another parent shared their thoughts on the proposal, ‘I could see from the plans that the proposed landscaping and wildlife pond have been carefully thought out, using largely native species that will enhance the local environment and create new habitats, in what is currently an area of unused land devoid of ecological interest. I feel sure this would be good for the wellbeing of local residents as well as the children and young adults lucky enough to attend Unique Kidz‘.
The results of the evening were positive and ongoing consultation has been undertaken with key stakeholders who could not attend the event, including MP David Morris, local councillors and the Chamber of Commerce to ensure the needs of the whole community are being met.
The Chamber of Commerce are, ‘Impressed at how the scheme has been developed in alignment with the discussion held at the engagement sessions, which makes this project feel like it really is for the benefit of its users and the community…
…Excited to see something happen on the redundant land running along Acre Moss Lane and it is obvious that the provision of the facility will improve the health and wellbeing of users and locals.’
David Morris MP echoed this sentiment, writing, ‘In the Lancaster and Morecambe area, there is extremely little in the way of sports facilities for disabled children and adults and these plans for an accessible bike track, outdoor play areas and wetland areas for outdoor learning is not only a much-needed local facility but will be centre of national excellence in this field.’
The scheme has been further developed in alignment with discussions held at engagement sessions and the response by the wider community has also been overwhelmingly positive.
Local councillors stating that:
‘The scheme will provide much needed facilities for severely disabled children and young adults in the area who must currently travel some distance to seek out these services…
…the landscaping will vastly improve the outlook for nearby resident and increase biodiversity, with a mixture of wildflower meadows an, pollinator friendly planting and tree.’
Councillor Joanne Ainscough
‘I particularly like the planting areas (accessible bike track, refurbishment of the existing building, wetland area for learning, safe outdoor play areas.
It will specifically benefit from the whole plan, clean and green, healthy living building the confidence of our young people to be able to learn outside and inside.’
County Councillor Marget Pattison
The scheme has recently been submitted to planning, you can pledge your support here.