It's really nice to have tangible evidence of the future of sheltered and extra care housing in Reading (more photos on Whitley news). Today I 'topped out' Cedar Court the first council housing to be build in Reading for over 20 years. We got funding for this from the then, Labour, government and huge amount of work has gone into it.
The build quality is excellent and it will be a case of best of both for residents: independent living like a sheltered unit, but more support available including care for those that need it and as needs change.
We are moving towards a 21st century sheltered and extra care service for Reading that meets the needs of an ageing population. We know that there are massive sensitivities about any changes to services for existing users and we are being transparent and open about them.
Following the misunderstanding (at best) by some councillors of what the review of sheltered services is about I'd also just like to clear up the facts on the sheltered review. Unfortunately the story in the Chroncle's Midweek is factually inaccurate regarding the contents of that review, I suspect due to a source (probably a councillor) giving them incorrect information.
For the avoidance of doubt this Labour administration does not have savings targeted against the sheltered housing budget. We are continuing the review of the sheltered housing service that the previous administration started and following this initial review consulting very fully on some proposed changes to the sheltered service.
We will not be taking any decisions until that consultation has completed and we will not be anticipating any savings until that has happened and we know what the shape of that service will be. Obviously this may be hard for some opposition councillors to understand, especially those that have taken a different approach when they were in control of the council. My colleague Mike Orton is on record as saying it is 'duplicitous' of Cllr Benson to be throwing around the comments she has been on such an important and sensitive issue.
Perhaps it is simply a massive failure to understand. However given the sensitivity of the issue and the legitimate concern for residents in sheltered, and their families, I would like her to publicly withdraw her remarks, and reassure residents and families that she understands what the consultation is all about. After all she was the cabinet member responsible for setting this review up. Residents deserve to know the truth and not be made unnecessarily anxious. As a side point, journalists also need to be able to rely on the factual accuracy of their sources, otherwise those sources lose credibility.
Council press release:
Councillors and representatives from developers Willmott Dixon Construction celebrated the topping out of Reading's new extra care housing scheme today (Tuesday, October 4th).
The scheme has been part funded by the Homes and Communities Agency, and is the first Reading Borough Council owned and managed housing development for more than 20 years.
Its name, Cedar Court, was chosen by people on the Council's waiting list for extra care housing and also sheltered housing tenants at Christchurch Court.
The 40-unit scheme is on the former Avenue School site in Basingstoke Road. Work on Cedar Court started last year and is due to be completed and ready for tenants to move in Spring 2012.
Cedar Court will provide a mix of 27 one bedroom flats and 13 two bedroom flats, all for social rent. The building will have full lift access to all floors and is designed to be accessible for wheelchair users.
There will be a café/restaurant, outside patio deck and hairdressers which both residents and also older people in the neighbourhood are welcome to use.
The extra care scheme is four storeys and will have additional facilities such as a treatment suite, hobby rooms, small shop, roof terrace and garden for residents to use.
The building has also been designed to meet high standards of renewable energy, through the use of bio-mass boilers and recycling and composting facilities.
Rachel Eden, lead councillor for housing and neighbourhoods, said: "These are the first new Council homes in Reading for many years and we are one of only 10 authorities in the South East to be building new Council properties. Residents who move in here will have the best of both worlds - privacy and independence combined with support when they need it - and really high quality accomodation."
Mike Orton, lead councillor for adult social care, said : "I'm really pleased that this extra care housing scheme is now progressing so well. It will increase the quality and choice of accommodation with care for many local older people and will provide many residents with 24-hour flexible care and support in their home. This will offer greater independence at a lower cost for many people as they get older. I am looking forward to seeing people living at Cedar Court in the spring."
Cedar Court adds to the Council's extra care schemes in the borough. A further scheme – Oak Tree House – is currently being built on the site of The Oak Tree pub in Dee Park, Tilehurst in partnership with Catalyst Housing Group .