Funding awarded for specialist housing scheme in Chester-le-Street

Chester-le-Street housing provider Cestria Community Housing has been successful in securing funding towards a specialist housing scheme for older people in the centre of town.

The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) has awarded the Association £1.76million of funding from the Care and Support Specialised Housing Fund, which will support the development of an exciting new mixed tenure housing scheme for the over 55’s in Chester-le-Street and the surrounding areas.

The Elms will consist of 57 new homes comprising six two bedroom self-contained bungalows and 51 apartments available for rent and sale. It will also include a range of communal residential and support spaces within the main block and facilities that can be used by residents and the wider community including as a beauty/treatment room, IT suite, café, laundry, community allotment and office/community exhibition space.

Each high quality home has been designed to be dementia friendly and aims to encourage a healthy and active lifestyle. To ensure the development responds positively to the changing needs of residents, all units within the scheme have been designed to comply with a number of design standards including the Habinteg Wheelchair Design Guide, Lifetime Homes, Design Quality Standards and is expected to achieve BREEAM Very Good rating for its low carbon design.

Features such as increased natural light, large communal spaces and access to outdoor space such as gardens and allotments have all been designed with residents’ wellbeing in mind.

The bathrooms have been designed with flush floor showers and can be adapted to meet each resident’s needs with the addition of handrails, while the kitchens will be fully fitted with a separate oven and hob and spaces for washer, drier/dishwasher and fridge freezer.

In addition to the communal gardens and allotment areas, individual apartments and bungalows will have their own outside space such as a patio, balcony area or garden.

The Elms will not only help to address the shortage of high quality, mixed tenure specialist housing but it will also improve the quality of life for older people. The development responds to the recommendations set out on ‘The HAPPI Report’ – a Government report which aims to encourage a healthy and active lifestyle for people aged 55 and over.

In 2012, the Association undertook a review of its older person’s accommodation and developed an Older Persons Supported Housing Strategy to respond to the housing options for older people within Chester-le-Street and the surrounding area.

An 18-month programme of consultation was undertaken with members of Cestria’s Sheltered Housing Forum as well as existing residents in two of Cestria’s obsolete sheltered courts – Lawson Court and Riddell Court. The Elms will now replace these two sheltered courts with demolition work expected to commence this Autumn.

Paul Fiddaman, Chief Executive of Cestria Community Housing, said:

“We are delighted to receive funding towards this supported housing scheme which marks a major milestone in the future provision of accommodation for older people. The concept behind the development really is revolutionary and will completely change not only the general perception of older people’s housing, but also the lifestyle and wellbeing of this demographic in the future.

“We recognise that locally there is a severe shortage of high-quality housing for the over 55s, and The Elms will go some way to meeting that strategic housing need.

“This development is about much more than just providing a roof over people’s heads, with the health and wellbeing of residents playing a major part in the design and future service delivery model of the Elms.”

David Curtis, Executive Director for the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber at the HCA, said:

“I am pleased that we have been able to support The Elms scheme as it will help older people live independently by giving them quality housing that has all the facilities and support that they need.”

Eddie Tomlinson, the portfolio holder for Housing at Durham County Council also expressed his delight in hearing that funding had been confirmed. He said:

“A scheme like ‘The Elms’ heralds a new generation of high quality housing for older people and will widen the choice of this type of specialised housing for both rent and sale in the Chester-le-Street area. We know that our population of people over the age of 55 is dramatically increasing across the county and there is an urgent need to respond not only to the housing needs of older people but also their longer term housing and care needs. The Elms will be well placed to meet these needs.”

National housing and regeneration specialist, Keepmoat has been appointed as the preferred developer of the Elms. Lee Francis, Area Director for Keepmoat, said:

“We are delighted to have been appointed by Cestria Community Housing to deliver this flagship specialist housing scheme.

“Keepmoat has an excellent reputation for delivering sheltered housing accommodation across the region which provides independent, safe and secure housing for older people with a difference. We recognise that age should not be a barrier to the way people live their lives and our schemes reflect this – they are real alternatives to the traditional approaches to housing for older people.”

The location of The Elms will be close to the centre of Chester-le-Street and will encourage residents to become active members of their local community, with the semi-urban environment providing greater opportunities for involvement and engagement than those schemes situated in more rural locations.

The architect for the Elms is JDDK and work is expected to commence in Spring 2014. Cestria will work in partnership with Durham County Council, developer Keepmoat, health and social care professionals and service users to develop the scheme.