Mark Whitehead 19 December 2019

Visionary housing for the elderly

Right now, Beachcroft House is a building site in a leafy street a few steps from the historic BBC studios in Maida Vale, a pleasant and leafy part of London. Men in hi-vis jackets and hard hats welcome visitors to walk around the half-finished building.

But soon this will emerge as a state-of-the-art care home for some of the elderly residents living in the London Borough of Westminster.

Already the clean, modern styling can be seen emerging in the smooth plastered walls. Community spaces and staff facilities complement the spacious en-suite rooms for the 84 occupants who will start arriving next summer.

Restful interior colour schemes have been designed with specialist advice for each room to help people with dementia recognise the place where they will feel at home. The building’s exterior is in high quality brick, blending harmoniously with the surrounding neighbourhood.

Beachcroft House has been designed to be ‘permeable’ – parts of it will be open to the local community for meetings and events, reducing the barriers between the residents and the people in surrounding areas, maintaining links with friends and family and encouraging new friendships.

The project represents the first part of a strategy for older people adopted after a borough-wide consultation exercise in 2012 to find out how elderly people wish to be treated.

It found most wanted more than anything to stay in their own homes for as long as possible, maintaining their independence and enjoying the environment many had known all their lives.

But for those whose needs were greater, high-quality care in specialist facilities was required.

Rachael Robathan, now Westminster’s cabinet member for finance, property and regeneration, has been with the project since its inception. She is clearly proud of the development. The test, she told Public Property, is whether someone would be happy for their own mother to live here. Beachcroft, she is confident, will pass that test with flying colours.

‘We wanted to deliver something much better for the borough’s residents,’ she said on the tour of the project. ‘These are our must vulnerable people with the highest care needs. The general policy is to help people stay in their own homes where they are comfortable, but there are some who need support in a specialist facility, and that is what this is for.’

What makes this development interesting in political and policy terms lies just next door. Here, adjoining the care home, is a joint project offering luxury accommodation in the private housing market. The Masefield will comprise a total of 31 one-, two- and three-bedroom luxury apartments and duplexes over five floors.

Named after the former poet laureate and local resident John Masefield, they are aimed at the wealthy professionals attracted to an area within easy reach of central London as well as the BBC studios. The properties are already on sale with starting prices at around £625,000 and rising to £1.5m or more.

In a strategy aimed at paying for a public service by making use of the private sector, income generated by he Masefield will go towards funding the care home. It is a good example of the way local authorities are increasingly linking with the private sector to maximise the services they can provide for their communities.

It offers advantages for both sides. Jim Briggs, managing director of Durkan, the Hertfordshire-based construction company responsible for the project, sees it as a milestone.

‘Visionary housing provision for older people is of critical importance as the UK seeks to tackle the loneliness and social isolation epidemic,’ he says.

‘By working together to explore new funding mechanisms and ways of working, there’s an opportunity for genuine partnership across the public and private sectors that can transform housing provision in the UK.’

Management of the Beachcroft care home will be taken over by a specialist provider but the land and buildings will remain the property of Westminster Borough Council, as will the Masefield.

Residents moving into the Beachcroft will be transferred from an existing home nearby which will be demolished. The plan then is for that site to be used for another project on the same lines, where private accommodation will help fund high quality care provision for the elderly.

Cllr Robathan remembers the site as a derelict wasteland once used as a centre for children with behavioural challenges. Now it is being put to good use. ‘We saw it as an opportunity to create something really innovative,’ she says. ‘We will be able to deliver nursing care provision at the absolute cutting edge.

‘At a time of rising demand and pressure on budgets we have to look innovatively and creatively at everything we have to deliver. This is an example of using the strengths of the private and public sectors to produce results for the community.’

This feature first appeared in Public Property – register here for your free digital copy.

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