Background and business case

Conewood House is a sheltered housing block in the north of Newcastle upon Tyne. The block previously consisted of 23 bedsits and 11 one-bedroom flats. Despite being within easy reach of local shops, amenities and transport links the properties were difficult to let due to their lack of internal and communal space, limited security features and outdated interiors. Residents were consulted in spring 2017 about plans to remodel the block. Work started on site in June 2018, taking a year to complete. The block has been transformed into 21 larger open plan apartments

Residents were consulted in spring 2017 about plans to remodel the block. Work started on site in June 2018, taking a year to complete. The block has been transformed into 21 larger open plan apartments with Jack and Jill bathrooms. A new light and airy glass entranceway has been created with fob access. This leads to a scooter store, and an extended communal area, with comfortable modern seating and kitchen facilities which residents can use to socialise with friends and neighbours. A further communal area is situated on the second floor of the block.

All communal areas have been decorated and furnished to a very high standard to create a hotel feel throughout the scheme. The front gardens have also benefitted from a complete makeover. The whole area has been landscaped, attractive seating areas have been installed and a raised flowerbed area created which is low maintenance and designed to encourage residents to enjoy and get active in the garden.

Feedback was taken onboard from previous sheltered remodelling schemes to increase the accessible features available in each apartment. The height of the toilet in each apartment was increased which has received positive feedback from residents. Members of staff were also trained as Trusted Assessors and therefore qualified to assess minor adaptations. As a result, all residents were assessed before moving into the scheme and any minor adaptations were installed prior to them moving in.

To address the anti-social behaviour issues, members of staff worked with the local Community Payback team. One of the contributing factors to the anti-social behaviour was that the park was very overgrown. The bushes and trees were cut down resulting in an improved view of the park for residents in the block and a reduction in anti-social behaviour in the area.

Once the block was nearing completion a show apartment was furnished and two open days organised. The events were extremely successful and resulted in all apartments being let prior to the completion date. The Regeneration Team have arranged coffee mornings for residents to get to know each other and more events are planned into the autumn and beyond to enable tenants to socialise.

Partners involved

  • Homes England
  • Esh
  • Newcastle City Council

Programme Costs

Total scheme costs: £1,983,087

Value of Affordable Homes Programme support for scheme: £525,000

Scheme size – 21 units – All affordable rent

Lessons learnt

  • Both residents who lived in the block and returned after it was completed said that they were keen to do so as they had lived in the area for most of their lives. This demonstrates that links to family, friends and familiar surroundings are very important when choosing where to live.
  • Social interactions are an important part of living in a scheme. The residents that we spoke to talked about opportunities that had been offered for them to get together and enjoy the communal spaces over a cup of tea or coffee or whilst playing bingo.
  • Security was referred to when we spoke to residents as an area for improvement in the previous scheme. Residents stressed the importance of security as being a very important aspect when considering where to live and recognised the benefits of increased security when the block was remodelled.
  • Having the option for your home to adapt and meet your needs as you get older was an important factor for residents. One resident commented that they did not need to use a wheelchair now, but they felt safe in the knowledge that if they did in the future, their apartment would be able to accommodate one.

The new entranceway made a real impression on residents along with the modern look and feel of the scheme. This is an important lesson for the future that the design of buildings is important to residents and can help to engender feelings of pride in where they live.

“Without the £525,000 of Affordable Homes Programme investment, YHN and Newcastle City Council would not have had the budget to remodel Conewood House. The funding enabled us to eradicate the previously unpopular bedsits and create larger apartments which have more space and a real hotel feel. We have received such positive feedback from our customers who moved into the block, particularly about the high standards of interior design throughout and the opportunities to socialise with other residents in the garden areas and communal lounges. It is lovely to see all of the properties let and everyone genuinely enjoying living there and making new friends.”

Lynn Waters, Regeneration Manager

“It is completely different to what it was. Everything is brand new, I almost don’t want to touch it. There are four of us who come down to the communal area and have a natter – we also play bingo on a Wednesday. They have adapted the building to make it more accessible for older people and the security is fantastic. You can’t get into the building without your fob. It wasn’t like that before. That’s what it should be like for older people to give us peace of mind. The size of the flat is definitely the best thing. I have a full bedroom suite now – before all I could fit in the bedroom was a single bed”.

Mary Caithness, aged 78, lived at Conewood House for 10 years before it was remodelled. Lived in the area for 47 years.