An old school building has been stunningly restored, providing much-needed homes for vulnerable adults in Sunderland.

Contractor Brims has completed a major programme of work to restore and extend Washington Old School on Albert Place, which will soon deliver 15 new specialist apartments. The project, which has taken 12 months to complete, is part of a council-led programme that has delivered scores of new homes across Sunderland.

The building – originally known as Biddick School – was built in 1893. It closed in 1993, after which it temporarily housed the Washington Church of Christ before being left vacant and falling into disrepair.

A range of significant modifications have been made to the old school, including the addition of a new mezzanine floor in some of the apartments to make the most of the existing space, light and roof height and all apartments benefit from a high-quality specification developed with the end user in mind. Four new apartments extend and complement the existing building and renewable energy has been used throughout the development, with the addition of solar photovoltaic panels and air source heat pumps, to reduce energy bills for residents and lessen carbon emissions. The development also boasts a stunning landscaped courtyard for all the occupants to enjoy, including seating designed by a local artist.

The school has stood empty for 20 years, and neighbours a cluster of new bungalows that the council developed in 2021 to boost the number of homes for older people and those with physical disabilities in Washington. Residents are expected to start moving into the scheme during August 2023.

Councillor Kevin Johnston, dynamic city cabinet member, said: “It’s brilliant to see a building that had fallen into disuse and was a blight on the community now back to its best and ready to welcome new residents.

“So often, empty properties like this become a magnet for problems, so to be able to proactively tackle this one, and create much-needed new housing in the process, is just brilliant.

“We’re so proud to have been able to deliver this stunning scheme, which sits beautifully alongside a community of attractive new homes that we have also developed as a local authority to ensure the city benefits from a wider range of properties that are able to support the needs of vulnerable residents and those living with a disability.”

The housing will be allocated by the council’s Adult Social Care team, who will identify those whose needs can be best met by the homes in the property.

The 15 apartments are designed for medium to long-term accommodation and to provide a vital sense of ownership for the residents. The scheme also includes overnight accommodation for support staff and office and meeting space and can also be adapted to house older and vulnerable residents on a more permanent basis, to provide flexibility depending on the needs of its residents.

Chris Meadowcroft, contracts manager at Brims, said: “We are very pleased to complete and handover what has been challenging but rewarding project.

“It is always a bonus to the Brims team and our subcontractors that the hard work put in to deliver the project will benefit some of those most at need within the local community. We are grateful to Sunderland City Council for encouraging and developing a team ethos which has no doubt been key to achieve successful completion.”