Stunning older persons housing redevelopment officially unveiled
Published by Kelly Elliott for Derwentside Homes Ltd in Housing and also in Communities
Front l-r: Castle Court residents Joan Hogarth, Elsie Law, Ann Todd and Gwen Dryden, North Durham MP Kevan Jones. Back l-r Derwentside Homes’ Chief Executive Geraldine Wilcox and Chair of the Board Sebert Cox.
The future of older people’s accommodation in County Durham has been officially unveiled with the opening of a flagship £3.6m housing development.
North Durham MP Kevan Jones was joined by local councillors and tenants to mark the launch of Castle Court in Annfield Plain.
Staff from Derwentside Homes; which owns and manages the Court, national housing and regeneration specialist Keepmoat; which carried out the work, and Blake Hopkinson; the architects behind the scheme, also attend the event.
Work on the project began last year with three existing buildings – the former County Council-owned Manor House residential home, former Primary Care Trust office building Priory Court and the existing Castle Court building – all undergoing major modernisation and renovation and combined to create one stunning new development.
The finished scheme consists of 41 luxury one and two-bedroom apartments, all featuring fully fitted bathrooms and kitchens, as well as an upgraded communal washing/drying area, modern wet rooms, a hairdresser’s room and an IT/cinema suite.
One of the Court’s most attractive features is a large, fully landscaped central courtyard, which joins up all three buildings.
The development has proved a big hit with tenants – the apartments were all let out within weeks of being made available, with the new residents quickly settling in.
One tenant who has really noticed the change is Gwen Dryden, a former resident of the old Castle Court scheme who is back living in exactly the same flat she was in before the work took place – although, as Gwen admits, it is now almost unrecognisable.
She said: “There are a few small similarities but most of it has changed completely - it is much bigger now, much roomier and the best thing is I now have doors leading out into the courtyard which is lovely, especially with this nice weather we’ve been having.
“It’s a lovely place and everyone here is so friendly - there is a real community spirit. I feel very lucky to live here.”
Castle Court first opened its doors in 1985 and consisted of 32 bedsits, however, after consulting with tenants and seeing the demand for traditional outdated bedsit accommodation decline in recent years, Derwentside Homes decided to give the building a complete makeover.
Chief Executive of Derwentside Homes Geraldine Wilcox said: “The needs of our tenants are changing and we wanted to reflect that in the accommodation we are offering to the over 55s.
“Castle Court is our most ambitious project to date and the combination of modern, spacious accommodation, state-of-the-art facilities and fantastic communal spaces such as the courtyard has proved a real hit, with huge demand for these properties. For many people apartments in these new, modern complexes are now the preferred choice over a bungalow.
“But this scheme is not just about accommodation – it also provides a sense of community and encourages tenants to become actively involved in the communities in which they live, therefore tackling the isolation which we know can be an issue for some of our tenants in later life.”
The renovation work was carried out by Keepmoat, with the company ensuing that throughout the project, opportunities for work and training were provided to local people.
Keepmoat Northern Managing Director David Ward said: “With the demand for traditional outdated bedsit accommodation declining in recent years and an ageing population in County Durham, the refurbishment of Castle Court is an exciting and much needed project and represents the next generation of sheltered housing in the area.
“Thanks to the use of innovative design solutions, we have created state of the art, modern facilities for older people who want to live independently in their own home but also within an active and thriving community.
Darren Blake, Partner at Blake Hopkinson Architecture, which designed the scheme, said: “Castle Court establishes a new quality benchmark for sheltered housing within the Derwentside Homes portfolio. The end result is an accumulation of innovative design and delivery ideas which have been developed and evolved over a series of projects.
“Keepmoat and Derwentside Homes have fully embraced the design and value-led partnership approach, allowing us to exceed end user expectations and facilitating a high quality bespoke solution to this significant landmark project.”
The cost of carrying out the work was £3.6m with £760,000 funding provided by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA). In addition to the 41 apartments, five bungalows were also built for sale.
Bill Carr, Area manager at the Homes and Communities Agency said: “It is fantastic to see the changes that our partners have made at Castle Court - they will make such an important difference to the lives of older people locally. I am really pleased that we were able to provide the £760,000 investment necessary to allow Derwentside Homes to complete this scheme.”