RESTORED: The King’s Centre plans
A dilapidated 19th century building in the heart of Bootle is set to be taken over and restored by a women’s charity.
The King’s Centre on Balliol Road, built in 1888 as an office for the local school board, has been empty for more than a decade and has fallen into disrepair.
But Sefton Council, which bought the building in 2005, has now agreed to lease the King’s Centre to the Venus Charity to allow the group to expand from its current premises on Linacre Lane.
The charity, which supports women and children, has applied for permission to restore and extend the building before moving in next year.
In its application to Sefton Council, the charity described the Grade II listed King’s Centre as “in a fairly poor state of repair” with “extensive” internal damage thanks to vandalism, water ingress and a small fire.
The charity added: “Its aesthetic condition is a particular issue – its current condition with boarded up doors and windows, heavily stained stonework and overgrown external areas detracts from the building’s own significance and the appearance of an otherwise improving local area.”
Taking over the King’s Centre would provide the Venus Charity with more than double the space of its current home on Linacre Road, providing “a unique opportunity for Venus to meet the growing demand for our services while preserving this important piece of local heritage both with and for the local community”.
The restored building will include a community kitchen, meeting rooms and space for the charity’s. Venus also intends to demolish the modern bin store and dilapidated boiler room at the rear of the building and replace them with a more modern extension.
Documents on Sefton Council’s website indicate the local authority intends to grant the Venus Charity a 20-year lease for an annual rent of just £1, with the possibility of extending the lease for another 125 years.
The council had originally bought the King’s Centre as part of the Queens Bedford Housing Market Renewal Initiative with the intention of demolishing it and building new housing on the site.
However, local objections led to English Heritage listing the building and subsequent proposals to convert the building into housing proved unsuccessful.
The building has been vacant ever since, with a council report noting it had incurred “considerable expense” in maintaining the King’s Centre.
The council first offered the building to the Venus Charity in 2014, but it is only now – thanks in part to a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund – that the project can move forward.
Members of the public can view and comment on the Venus Charity’s planning application on Sefton Council’s website, with a decision expected by July 6.
Words: Chris McKeon, Local Democracy Reporter
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