Opening the book on ageing

In redeveloping a retirement housing scheme to provide a distinctly hotel-style alternative for residents, Ashford Borough Council also decided to apply an open book approach to encourage collaboration. Jack Wooler reports.

arrow Court, now completed to the south of Ashford, is a £17m social housing project that caters for a range of elderly residents. The scheme is at the forefront of current Government policy to integrate housing, health and adult services into communities.


Designed by architecture practice PRP, the development has been constructed around an existing, smaller supported housing scheme for older people, building 104 new homes. The fully dementia- friendly new build is council owned, council run, and council built via contractors Bouygues UK.

It has been conducted using a collaborative ‘open book’ approach, whereby Ashford Borough Council, consultancy firm Pellings, and Bouygues worked collectively as partners to reach decisions at each stage of the build. The project is now a flagship scheme in the borough. Hoping to engender a non- clinical feel, in contrast to many dilapidated care homes or lifeless hospitals, Farrow Court is an open, modern apartment development with extensive accessibility features, more akin to a hotel than its institutional counterparts.

The scheme In June 2013, planning permission was granted, with a ‘meet the buyer’ event held shortly after to offer local tradesmen and businesses the opportunity to be involved in the construction of the scheme. The planning process was reportedly stress-free. Previous residents of the old flats on the site were excited about their new home, and locals were keen to see the old building replaced with a modern


structure, as well as impressed with the numerous community aspects integrated into the build. Work began on site in September, and during the programme £3.6m of funding was formally added to the contract so that 12 homes for people with learning disabilities could be built as the last of the project’s three phases. In addition, and timed to take place during dementia aware- ness week, members of council staff attended training sessions to become ‘dementia friends’.

On completion of the first phase, the residents moved across from the old, subsequently demolished, building to the new units, allowing the commencement of phase two. This has been built on the site of the old building and forms a separate part of the new unit, with a connecting walkway. The existing scheme’s residents moved into their new homes by November 2015, with work on phase two beginning at the start of 2016. Work completed in November 2017, with the new residents moved in.

Daniel Scarsbrook, planning and development surveyor at Ashford Borough Council, details the demographic shifts that form the backdrop to the scheme: “In 2025, 40 per cent of Ashford’s population will be aged over 50. Eight existing outdated council-owned sheltered schemes had been earmarked for development over 15 years, to address the challenge of providing homes that meet the needs and aspirations of the ageing population.”

Farrow Court was selected as the first scheme to be redeveloped as the large site offered the opportunity to build at a


Farrow Court was designed to be open and modern, in contrast to the reality of many care homes


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