We are excited to share our plans to extend and redevelop our main centre, The Old Schoolhouse in Westhill to create a state-of-the-art facility for our families, staff and volunteers.

Following completion of our Community Asset Transfer for the building from Aberdeenshire Council in 2019, which secured a 175 year lease, we have been committed to sensitively maintaining and developing the building to sustain its place as a valuable community facility.

The Old Schoolhouse is one of Westhill’s oldest buildings, thought to date back as far as 1832 when it was built as the town’s school with an attached house being added later to provide accommodation for the school master. In more recent years it was home to a play group until it become largely unused until we made it our home in 2016.

Charity founders, Suz Strachan and Susan Kay, saw the potential of The Old Schoolhouse and we have already made massive improvements with the installation of the soft play and sensory rooms as well as new kitchens, flooring and even the adjacent inclusive play park was added in 2021.

However, being a historic building, the existing floorplan does not suit modern purposes and there are several issues we need to overcome to make the centre fit for purpose:

  • Lack of a clear entrance point – the main door is not clearly visible from the car park and entry is via a kitchen with a tight turn which is difficult for wheelchair users to navigate.  
  • Better access – the large activity rooms offer great space but, layout is an issues as 2 are only accessible via the main (‘Green’) room creating accessibility issues when it is in use.
  • Shortage of practical amenities – we need to upgrade and increase the number of toilets and add better changing facilities for wheelchair users.

SensationALL is experiencing massive demand from families across the northeast and we are acutely aware we need to duplicate existing sessions and services to accommodate more people.

As we share the building with our sister organisation, Schools Out Club (providing breakfast and after school clubs for local primary school children) we need to take their needs into consideration too. Similar to us, Schools Out Club are working with full waiting lists and they can’t increase the number of children onsite until there is more space!

After much thought into what would solve our layout, amenities and accessibility issues, the staff team worked alongside architects to create plans to extend the building.

These plans create additional activity spaces which will allow us to hold multiple sessions at one time while adding sensory elements and a Changing Places toilet that will be open to the public.

The reworked layout means SensationALL and Schools Out Club will both be able to operate from the building at the same time as the building can be clearly divided.

This animation is an artist’s impression of what the exterior of the building could look like with the extensions in place. We plan to reuse as much of the granite from the outhouses (which need to be demolished to make way for the front extension) to retain the character of the building.

Proposed ground floor plan

We hope to submit a planning application to Aberdeenshire Council later in the year but this is your chance to influence the design before that process. Please take a look at the below drawings and artists impressions then use the link to the feedback survey (closes end of 20th May) to give us your thoughts…

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