Community to reflect on a job well done

Patsy Healey at West Mansfield House
Patsy Healey at West Mansfield House

A development of affordable homes funded by the country’s only Community Bond Scheme, is set for its official opening tomorrow.

The innovative funding stream has paid for the conversion of four homes in Roddam Dene House, formerly West Mansfield House, and five in the former Wheatsheaf pub in Wooler.

The homes are designed for older people, following the closure of the town’s only sheltered-housing scheme, Horsdonside, in 2011.

The Glendale Gateway Trust organised the conversion via the Government’s Empty Properties Programme. The nine homes for people aged 55 and over, with average monthly rents of £320, were snapped up within days.

Roddam Dene House will be officially opened by Lord Vinson at 11am tomorrow.

The Community Bond Scheme financing structure raised £128,000 and received a donation of £50,000 from Lord Vinson, through the Nigel Vinson Charitable Trust.

Tom Johnston, director of the Glendale Gateway Trust, said: “Public money for this kind of scheme is becoming more difficult to access and we needed to find an alternative route to fund what is a very necessary development for Wooler.

“This is one of the most rural and least-populated areas in the UK, covering 250 square miles with just 6,000 people.

“When the sheltered housing scheme closed, the 23 residents were dispersed – some to Alnwick, some to Morpeth – because there was nowhere suitable in the local area for them to live.”

John Smith, who recently moved into Roddam Dene House, said: “I really needed to move as I have become less mobile and can no longer manage stairs. The apartment is very comfortable and the walk-in shower is perfect for my needs.

“My daughter and grandson are now a stone’s throw away – my only regret is that I did not make this move six years ago.”

Lord Vinson said: “The Community Bond Scheme really shows what a community can do when it works together, and I’m proud to have played a part in ensuring Wooler now has this essential resource for older people.”