£500,000 fundraising appeal launched to convert former Rothbury House Hotel into community housing

An appeal has been launched to raise £500,000 to transform the former Rothbury House Hotel into community housing for RAF veterans.

By Ian Smith
Monday, 26th July 2021, 11:26 am

The Royal Air Forces Association wants to create 26 additional apartments so that more RAF veterans can relive the camaraderie they knew while serving their country.

The hotel, which previously provided respite breaks for veterans and their spouses, closed last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

A planning application has been submitted for alterations that would see the new accommodation provided in two phases, with renovations – costing around £500,000 – starting later in the summer.

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Rothbury House.

The first stage of the planning process is complete, with permission being granted for a change of use.

A survey of almost 20,000 RAF Association members aged 65 and over, carried out by the organisation during a review of its welfare service provision, revealed significant demand for good quality retirement housing where residents could share their RAF connection.

More than 500 respondents said they would be interested in moving to Rothbury House.

Rory O’Connor, the RAF Association’s director of welfare and policy, said: “We estimate that almost 40% of RAF veterans are living alone, and we know that, tragically, isolation and loneliness is a huge problem among this group.

Widow Ruth Birch hopes more members of the veteran RAF community can move into RAF Association housing.

“Using the Association’s many years’ experience of running retirement complexes, we believe we can offer more accommodation where people with a shared experience can find a sense of belonging.

“The current design of Rothbury House lends itself to retirement living. All of its bedrooms, over four storeys, are en-suite and have level-entry access through wide corridors serviced by two lifts.”

The ground and first floors will be completed in the initial phase, providing 16 rooms.

The second phase, expected in 2022-2025, will involve some internal alterations in order to provide ten additional rooms

Rothbury House shares a site with existing RAF Association retirement accommodation at Lord Tedder and Malcolm Courts.

When the transformation is complete, all of the site’s residents will be able to use communal facilities, including a dining room, lounges and extensive gardens, at the house. Daily meals will also be provided.

Widow Ruth Birch (90) is one of the site’s existing residents. Her life has been transformed by being close to other members of the retired RAF community.

Ruth and her late husband, Bill – a Second World War Air Bomber, who helped to drop vital supplies into the Netherlands during Operation Manna – waited six years for a flat to become available at Lord Tedder Court.

On moving in, in 2012, the couple were able to make friends with other residents – something that turned out to be a lifeline for Ruth when Bill died seven years later.

Ruth said: “The atmosphere here in the complex is very friendly, so nobody needs to feel alone. It will be lovely if Rothbury House can be developed into more independent living accommodation to grow our community.”

To donate to the RAF Association’s Building Futures appeal, please visit buildingfutures.rafa.org.uk or call 0800 018 2361.

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RAF charity reveals plans to convert Rothbury House into 26 retirement rooms

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