Best Local Authority / Housing Association Partnership Award 2015

As we approach the 2016 Empty Homes Awards season, it's worth refreshing memories with a look back at last year's awards.

We've already covered the Practitioner of the Year Award and the Best Local Authority / Community Housing Organisation Awards, but we haven't given the details of last year's award for the best partnership between a local authority and a housing assocation.

This was sponsored by the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, showing their commitment to this type of partnership work.

The 2015 winners were Denbighshire County Borough Council and North Wales Housing for the refurbishment of two listed buildings.

The Award was presented on behalf of LBBD by Helen Williams, Chief Executive of the Empty Homes Agency (standing left in the photo) to Andrea Fisher and Chris Evans (middle) of Denbighshire County Borough Council, with Carson Millican (standing right) representing the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham.

The details of the Project were as follows:

Project : Restoration of 37/39 Pendyffryn Road Rhyl

Background and description of project

37 – 39 Pendyffryn Road is two Grade II listed buildings. Both were listed in a poor condition, with No. 37 in a partially derelict state. Located in a suburban residential street and an eyesore for many years, the buildings were on a Council Corporate ‘Eyesore Sites’ list, the Council’s ‘Listed Buildings at Risk’ Register and Empty Homes Register. The buildings were purchased by a local developer in 2006 with substantial local opposition. The architect preparing the scheme found evidence of a 17th century sub medieval core. A variety of funding was sourced by a Local Housing Association –North Wales Housing in partnership with Denbighshire County Council.

Developing the project

Historic buildings should be a catalyst for regeneration if based on a sound development management approach, a pro-active strategic cross-service vision and if appropriate funding resources are in place. Listed buildings are often more expensive to repair than ordinary properties, and the condition of these buildings add additional pressures to the viability of a suitable scheme progressing. Funding for the conservation and repair of listed buildings cannot easily be found in the private sector alone, unless enabling development is permitted to release capital for the listed buildings. The initial pressure to allow 4 –bed detached houses in the grounds, would have destroyed the setting of the building. The added complexity of affordable housing provision would have jeopardised the project going ahead.

The Empty Homes Strategy for Denbighshire focuses on long term empty homes that have no viable plan to bring them back into use. Two listed buildings, deemed an eyesore site in an attractive suburban street, derelict and in very poor condition seemed a hopeless case, but nonetheless identified as an Empty Homes Priority Project in 2008 after an unsuitable planning and listed building consent application was refused.

This innovative partnership approach together with the flexible and pragmatic attitude of Denbighshire County Council and North Wales Housing , combined with the dogmatic progression of funding by the Council and the willingness of the developer to seek a positive outcome all contributed to an outstanding scheme of townscape value for significant social benefit.

Six two-bedroom properties on the site were created. Three are in the listed buildings, with three new bungalows meeting lifetime homes standards, and wheelchair friendly dwellings in the grounds. Rhyl is one of the highest areas of housing need in Denbighshire and this crucial development provides much needed, high quality 2 bedroom affordable housing for local people with a local connection. The buildings have been conserved, and enhanced. Rather than being an empty eyesore they are outstanding vernacular buildings in Rhyl providing well designed and beautiful housing for those with a genuine local need.

Achievements of the partnership

  • The scheme is a success story of how seemingly hopeless causes in long term decline - can be proactively successfully restored working closely with internal and external partners who have the vision, enthusiasm and the drive to succeed..
  • The scheme is a fine example of sustainability by bringing eyesore sites and empty homes back into use for local people with local needs for community benefit
  • The scheme is an exemplar project in terms of its contribution to restoring listed buildings at risk based on a sound understanding of their significance
  • This was a combination of Social Housing Grant (made available from Welsh Government but prioritised by Denbighshire County Council) and private finance raised by North Wales Housing Association in the form of intermediate rented properties in Denbighshire, the first such properties developed with grant in Denbighshire.
  • The scheme is fully inclusive, on a local transport route, and the sympathetically designed terraced houses to the rear are for people with physical difficulties, which can be further adapted.
  • The fierce local opposition to the scheme has been turned around as a result of the quality of restoration, further enhancing local pride in the neighbourhood and wider area, as home to the oldest house in Rhyl, of distinct vernacular character.
  • In the face of seeming adversity, one should never give up. A solution can be found.

Shared Outcomes:

  • North Wales Housing, who manage the buildings, provides intensive housing management service to the residents, some of whom have additional support needs in the community as well as disabilities. This combined with the well-thought out, specially designed facilities have enhanced the quality of life of tenants and residents, making their day to day activities easier as well as protecting their future needs.
  • The community originally objected to the scheme, but are now delighted with the positive change to the character and appearance of the listed buildings and the removal of blight from the area.
  • An iconic building in Rhyl has been regenerated. In an area blighted by social and environmental difficulties this scheme has engendered great pride in the community. As it lay dormant for so long the community had almost accepted the derelict state of the site after years of previous complaints. The scheme has breathed new life into this busy part of Rhyl and shown the community what can be done to regenerate an area.

Opinion on the completed project has been extremely positive to date.


Highly Commended

In addition to the outright winners, there was also a Highly Commended entry. This was submitted by a strong partnership between Calderdale Council, Connect Housing, Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group and Calderdale and Huddersfield Foundation Trust (CHFT).

The project involved 21 empty properties owned by the NHS Trust, which had been empty for 7 years.

In this case, Helen Williams presented the Highly Commended certificate to Vicky Dooley of Connect Housing (middle left in the picture) and Eileen Johnson of Calderdale Council (middle right in the picture), with Carson Millican (standing right) again showing the support of London Borough of Barking and Dagenham.

Highly Commended Submission

Background

Heatherstones was a cluster of 21 empty properties in a desirable area of Calderdale owned by the NHS Trust. The properties originally housed trainee medical staff, but they had been empty for the last 7 years, slowly deteriorating and attracting unwanted attention and vandalism.

Calderdale Council, first made contact with Calderdale and Huddersfield Foundation Trust (CHFT) in November 2010 asking them what their intentions were, and offering assistance to bring them back into use. The Trust stated the properties were not suitable for occupation and that they were reviewing its residential portfolio. Heatherstones had been identified as surplus to requirements and would likely be disposed of shortly.

Calderdale Council developed a business case with options for Lease & Repair, or Purchase & Repair, as by now, a number of social landlords had approached the council interested in bringing Heatherstones back into use to provide affordable housing.

In January 2012, Connect Housing was awarded empty property money from the Homes and Communities Agency. Calderdale MBC had also secured ‘Clusters funding’, identifying Heatherstones as a single cluster of empty homes. By 2012, outline proposals for Heatherstones were being developed for the creation of affordable housing and Intermediate Care rehabilitation apartments.

An overview of the development and the partners involved

Registered Provider, Connect Housing purchased the whole site from the NHS Trust. The 21 empty homes became 13 new affordable homes for rent in an area where there was little or no affordable housing in that area and Heatherstones Court, a unique, 12 apartment scheme designed to provide time and space for individuals to adjust after being in hospital.

The 13 new affordable homes proved extremely popular and were re-occupied very quickly. They were available for the wider community. The location is sustainable being in walking distance of Halifax town centre and major transport routes. This would not have been created if Connect Housing had not been involved.

Heatherstones Court is a new service for adults of any age in Calderdale offering up to a 6 week stay to get help and support upon discharge from hospital. It was created by Calderdale Council, NHS Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group, Connect Housing and Calderdale and Huddersfield Foundation Trust.

It can support up to 15 adults at one time. There is wheelchair accessible, two bedroom apartments with appropriate equipment to help people with mobility issues. These can accommodate a service user & a partner or carer at the same time if beneficial. The staff team is made up of people who are trained to provide the right level of support when the individual needs it. This includes personal care, practical support, housing support & therapy to help them rebuild strength, skills and confidence, as well as practical help to move home and back to independence.

Apprenticeships have been core to Heatherstones Court. The Registered Provider employed a construction company who had a number of apprentices working on site & learning a new skill. There is also a care apprentice employed, who is gaining hands on care and reablement experience, whilst studying for a new qualification. The service created 12 new roles and opportunities, all filled from the local community.

A local Community Task Force’s skills were utilised with the landscaping, comprising of volunteers and adults who are unemployed and gain experience working on a variety of different landscaping projects to help them get back into work. Heatherstones Court provided a blank canvass for the volunteers and we gained a beautiful garden whilst contributing to social value.

Heatherstones Court is Unique

Heatherstones Court is a true illustration of what can be achieved through partnership working. Many of us in Housing have tried to engage social care and health for a number of years by showing how integral housing is and what a difference safe and warm housing can be to someone’s life, health and wellbeing and we managed to crack it with Heatherstones Court.

It is the only service of its size and style in the country. Other similar services tend to be in an extra care setting where there are age restrictions or, bedroom based accommodation and/or only allow one person to stay. Heatherstones Court is an independent service in the heart of the community, offering a temporary stay in self contained 1 and 2 bed apartments. This means that any adult of any age with a suitable need is able to benefit from the service. It also means that a partner or carer can come and stay with the person.

Customers of Heatherstones Court are benefiting from having more options available when coming out of hospital, particularly younger adults who had no option but to stay in hospital longer or stay in an out of area placement. Older people previously stayed in hospital longer or moved into a temporary bed in a care home.

The partners involved, Calderdale Council, Connect Housing, Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group and CHFT, are very proud of what has been achieved and what the service and staff are able to offer to people in need. We have already seen good news stories from customers and we look forward to supporting many more.

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