9th September 2015
Launch of new scheme at Mill Gardens, Kirkby Stephen. Front: Henry Barker EHA Chairman, Parish Councillor Joan Johnstone and Geoff Cook, Vice Chairman Cumbria County Council
Eden Housing Association’s new extra care scheme in Kirkby Stephen was officially opened yesterday (Tuesday 8th September) by Parish Councillor Joan Johnstone. Mill Gardens was originally a sheltered housing scheme built in 1977, but its bedsit accommodation became dated and was becoming no longer fit for modern day living. After considering whether to refurbish and remodel the existing building it was decided that it would prove far better value to provide a brand new facility. Therefore in 2013 the old building was demolished to make way for this new, modern, and future proofed extra care scheme for the benefit of not only residents but the local community. At a cost of £3.1 million, the new ‘Mill Gardens’ scheme features nineteen self-contained apartments as well as communal facilities and gardens that meet the support, care and housing needs of local residents.
Work on the old site began in September 2013, once the remaining residents of the sheltered scheme had been found alternative accommodation. The £3.1 million cost to create the Mill Gardens scheme allowed for three x one bedroomed and sixteen x two bedroomed apartments over three floors; they have been designed to be ‘lifetime homes’ that can be adapted as personal needs change. The build cost was met with grant funding of over £500,000 from the Homes and Communities Agency and £250,000 extra care funding from Cumbria County Council to help build and fit out additional floor space and provide extra care facilities like assisted bathing, specialist laundry equipment, secure door entry and flexible space and rooms for health and well-being use.
Residents living in the extra care scheme environment that Mill Gardens provides will benefit from the presence of an on site care team, 24/7 thanks to the investment commitments made by Cumbria County Council.
On the very first day of demolition in September 2013 the site was attended by the Eden Housing Association (EHA) team and Councillor Beth Furneaux, Cumbria County Council Cabinet member for Adult and Local Services and this marked the start of the 18 month project, developed by local contractors.
The footprint of the new scheme is slightly larger than its predecessor and it feels considerably larger because of the clever use of space. Inside the corridor colours and signage have been created to make getting around easier for any residents living with dementia.
Work on the scheme was completed in time for residents to move into their new homes in April and the EHA team was pleased to see 75% of the original Mill Garden residents choosing to return to the new Mill Gardens – they were given first choice of the new apartments. Popular from the outset, the scheme is fully occupied and residents are now enjoying their new community, getting together on a regular basis for a coffee and a chat, fish and chip lunches, and afternoon activities. All the residents attended the the opening of the scheme.
Welcoming everyone to the launch Henry Barker, Chairman of Eden Housing Association said “Standards and expectations in older persons living have changed over the years and Eden Housing Association has adapted to those needs, firstly in Carlisle with the Heysham Gardens Extra Care scheme, and now in Kirkby Stephen with Mill Gardens. It is a great example of collaborative effort and I would like to extend a big thank you to the whole team for getting the scheme to this stage, and also to those taking it forward and running it on a daily basis.
The scheme is not about a building, it is about the residents and the choices it offers them. Our oldest resident is 95, with others also in their 90’s; the fact we have so many residents able to live independently in their own homes is a testament to the success of extra care models and is certainly the way forward if funds allow.
The recent budget announcement changes will have an impact on what small, local housing associations like ours are able to achieve in the future, in terms of new development and investment in our communities. The threat to our income after the u-turn after only 1 year, on a rent guarantee for 10 years, will severely affect our future ability to spend on these very important things in support of our rural economy.”
Residents agree that life is made easier with the extra facilities. Bertha Stary was one of the original Mill Gardens residents; she chose an apartment that was in a similar position to her previous one, overlooking the trees and fells. She loves having the Julian balcony doors open so she can hear the river and pursue her passion for bird watching. Asked what she likes best about her new apartment she said really appreciates the walk in shower – it makes life easier. The other residents agree.
Addressing guests at the opening Geoff Cook, Vice-Chairman of Cumbria County Council said “Extra care housing provides people with the security and independence that they need. It means that people can continue to have their very own front door providing them with their own space alongside quality support services and the council is delighted to be part of, and fund, this very exciting scheme”.
The honour of officially opening the scheme was given to Joan Johnstone, who has played an important role in the Kirkby Stephen Community for many years. As a past Chair of Eden Housing Association and current Parish Councillor Joan has followed the progress of the scheme with keen interest. In her opening comments she said “Kirkby Stephen is a real community, and it has a much older population than the UK average. This makes the new Mill Gardens scheme even more important to the people who live here. I am honoured to be invited to perform the official opening of the new Mill gardens. My links with EHA go back to its very inception in 1997 when I joined its first member’s board, and later as Chair. Throughout the years I was delighted to be part of an organisation working tirelessly to provide and maintain affordable housing for local people. I have watched the scheme develop and now finished, I do hope that all residents will be part of the local community and feel happy and contented in their new homes. I applaud and thank everyone at Eden Housing Association, along with the consultants, contractors and funders, for this project which has provided Kirkby Stephen with this excellent facility.” Once opened, guests were shown round apartments before enjoying a celebratory afternoon tea with residents.
For more information about the Mill Gardens Extra Care Scheme, contact Eden Housing Association on 01768 861 400.
For more information about this release or for more images, contact Tracey Errington on 07799 640 290 or email [email protected]
Residents Joyce Plummer and Elsie Sowerby celebrate enjoying the celebrations