A delegation from Ashford Borough Council‘s housing team were among 300 industry professionals attending the LABC South East Building Excellence Awards in Brighton — and ended up scooping the Best Social or Affordable New Housing Development award.
Noakes Meadow in South Ashford was shortlisted in a strong category, which included a number of exceptional housing schemes across the region.
Noakes Meadow comprises two affordable homes suitable for wheelchair users. The council had already identified the site for development but by pre-allocating one of the two-bedroom bungalows for a couple with ability requirements, it was able to liaise closely with them to provide a bespoke build to fully take into account their disability needs.
Occupational therapists who viewed the semi-detached property during its construction had commented that it should be the blueprint for the type of bespoke wheelchair-standard accommodation that ought to be built across the country.
As regional winners, the authority now heads to London in November to compete in the national awards final.
Cllr Bill Barrett, Ashford Borough Council Portfolio Holder for Housing, attended the Brighton ceremony and he praised the authority’s housing team for “its massive achievement in beating a lot of very good new-builds”.
Bill said: “If there is one project which truly promotes the idea of ‘building excellence’, it is Noakes Meadow. I believe that the accessibility offered there is in a different league to what is offered elsewhere. The council is proud of the part it has played in delivering home which has significantly enhanced the way in which the couple now live their lives.
“No longer is it appropriate to provide homes in isolation. We must consider issues such as social mobility and the increasingly important healthcare agenda, to ensure that our homes and our plans are fit for purpose. At Ashford, we do things differently. We recognise that sometimes improved outcomes for vulnerable people can be derived by working closely with other organisations in the public, private and voluntary sectors.
“Noakes Meadow is an example of the excellent partnership working fostered by Ashford Borough Council. By including all stakeholders at all times, this project has been made possible and to know that it is making a real difference means it’s a job well done,” added Bill.
Special features at Noakes Meadow
The property at Noakes Meadow has square rooms with a wide hallway in which turning circles are possible in a powered wheelchair. The wet room is accessed via two very wide doorways and the wooden flooring throughout enables use with a standing aid, something that is not possible on carpet. Sections of the internal walls could be removed to enable a hoist to be fitted in the property in due course, should it be required one to still enjoy the home.
In the kitchen, the worktop heights can be adjusted to enable cooking and washing up. All cupboards are also fully accessible. The smaller paved garden is also wheelchair friendly.
The technical bit…
There are three accessible standards for new-builds under Part M of the Building Regulations:
•M4(1) which is visitable (and which every new dwelling must achieve and is the default Building Control checking position)
•M4(2) which is adaptable (an optional standard that can be imposed in a planning consent), which means the dwelling layouts can be adapted to be reasonably suitable for all in the future with some alterations.
•M4(3) which is fully accessible for wheelchair users (an optional standard that can be imposed in a planning consent), which effectively means the dwelling layouts are suitable for all from the outset. This is the most onerous standards, and it is not considered possible, once built, to even adapt an M4(2) dwelling to achieve this M4(3) standard.
Initially the homes at Noakes Meadow were to just meet the M4(1) standard as there was no planning condition stipulating otherwise. However, when the council became aware of the couple’s situation, we met with them and decided that the best way forward would be to redesign the layout to be fully M4(3) compliant. We managed to turn this redesign around in a week, as the on-site build was already at ground floor beam and block level and we couldn’t really afford a delay to the build programme.
Fortunately, the initial design for Noakes Meadow lends itself to a workable redesign to achieve the M4(3) standard. The extra build costs to achieve this standard compared to the initial M4(1) standard have been less than half that quoted in government documents, which represents a great result for Ashford Borough Council.