£13m plans for elderly housing revolution

Ravenslaw House, Alnwick
Ravenslaw House, Alnwick

A £13million plan, which would revolutionise housing and care provision for the elderly in north Northumberland, was launched today.

The Abbeyfield Society has announced a pioneering hub-and-spokes model for supported housing, which it hopes will offer choice to the elderly of Alnwick and its surrounding rural and coastal communities.

It is a project that the charity hopes could be replicated in other rural areas in the UK.

Known as the North Northumberland Family of Abbeyfield Project, the proposed scheme will involve transforming Abbeyfield’s existing care facilities at Ravenslaw in Alnwick into a state-of-the-art housing and support hub with 24-hour care that will also provide care at home for local residents.

However, this aspect of the plans has raised fears about the future for residents and staff at Ravenslaw.

The charity’s plans also include the redevelopment of a ‘significant site’ in Alnwick, rumoured to be the Maltings on Lagny Street, on which it is in the final stages of negotiation, which will offer a number of supported-living apartments designed to allow residents as much independence as possible.

The spokes in the plans will be relatively small sheltered houses in the rural and coastal areas surrounding Alnwick, which, although rooted in their local communities, will be able to make the most of activities and care at the central hub.

The charity already has a strong presence in north Northumberland and the volunteers who head three of its existing houses and homes have been the driving force behind the new vision of how Abbeyfield can respond to the increase in the

over-75 population.

The national growth in this age group between 2012 and 2022 is expected to be 30 per cent, but the figure for north Northumberland is expected to be significantly higher at 40 per cent.

“As local volunteers, with the interests of the older people in our community at the very heart of what we do, we understand that the needs of the over 65s in this area are changing and that it is our responsibility to respond to that,” said Dave Miller, chairman of Abbeyfield’s Bamburgh Society.

“We know that Abbeyfield wouldn’t be able to cope with increased demand in our existing houses and homes, nor is there enough suitable accommodation generally in this area.”

The project will involve a merger between the Abbeyfield societies at Alnwick, Bamburgh and Berwick into the national Abbeyfield Society, a move that has been supported by the volunteer trustees from each society.

“I think we all recognise that together, and with the support of Abbeyfield nationally, we can achieve far more for the elderly of North Northumberland than any of us could alone,” added Mr Miller.

Amanda Gilboy, Abbeyfield’s director for the north, added: “Our plan is to create a project that will place Alnwick at the forefront of care standards in the UK.

“Of course, this means change, but our number-one priority will be reducing disruption to residents and staff.

“Of course, jobs will be created during construction, but ultimately we are confident that this proposal will also bring more long-term jobs to the area.”