15 - 12 - 2022
Written by BPTW Partner Neill Campbell
With the ongoing shortage of affordable homes across the country, Gravesham Council partnered with BPTW to tackle the housing crisis in their area by building age-friendly homes that encourage older people to downsize while freeing up larger homes better suited for families. Completed in 2022, Constable Road in Gravesham is one of these projects that has also been designed for residents with accessibility needs. Now that the project is complete and the residents have moved in, BPTW Partner Neill Campbell meets John and Jenny Diprose – new residents at Constable Road – to find out how the age-friendly, accessible design has transformed their lives.
BPTW has closely collaborated with Gravesham Borough Council for several years to produce circa 160 homes on local authority sites for the council’s development programme. Many of the developments we have designed are either occupied or complete. Each development differs in size and constraints, ranging from garage sites and estate infill to open parcels of land, to deliver 10 to 80 homes, many of which have been designed to meet distinct accessibility needs.
Age-friendly homes at Constable Road
Shortlisted for the 2022 Inside Housing Development Awards, our recently completed project at Constable Road provides seven affordable, age-friendly homes in Gravesham. To accommodate the residents’ distinct accessibility and housing needs, I led the design of a unique ‘one-bedroom plus’ home. Following HAPPI’s design guidance, all primary spaces – sitting room, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom – are situated on the ground floor to create a fully accessible home. Every house also has a generous garden or terrace. With a flexible layout and adaptable approach for any future needs, the one-bedroom plus home is an improved model of a traditional bungalow. What sets the home apart from others is the creative use of space with an extra room in the roof. This additional room offers residents space for their hobbies, a room for family and friends to stay, or space for a carer, providing residents with the generous space and homely qualities they were used to in their family homes.
As the Partner responsible for BPTW’s collaboration with Gravesham Council, I was fortunate to visit residents John and Jenny Diprose at Constable Road and talk about the benefits their new home brings to their lives.
A Sense of Independence
HAPPI’s principles are based on ten key design criteria relevant to the spectrum of senior housing by offering adaptability for future needs and a great substitute for a family home. Inspired by HAPPI’s key design of ‘space and flexibility,’ our flexible and accessible layout at Constable Road has enabled John and Jenny to regain their sense of independence. After a stroke and other health implications, John came to rely on his wife to help him access the space upstairs in their previous home, such as the bathroom and bedroom.
With all the primary spaces accessible on the ground floor, their new home reduces this requirement and John can move around without the support of his wife. This provides Jenny with more time for herself and her hobbies, which includes sewing. The extra room upstairs also offers her the space she needs to further develop her hobbies.
// Everything being all on one floor has been most transformational. I can do everything myself. It’s just beautiful that I can do everything myself. //Mr Diprose speaking about the benefits of the accessible layout
Design Finish and Quality
According to the findings of the HAPPI 3 Inquiry, older people prefer to stay in their family homes instead of rightsizing to a smaller property because there are limited options for other suitable accommodation. The reality is that homes for older people are usually below standard and are a significant reduction in quality from their family homes, thereby, creating a barrier to the decision to move house. Constable Road challenges this quality expectation and has a modern, spacious design that brings a sense of luxury while also incorporating many of the aspects that residents liked about their traditional family home. This helps them to feel comfortable and recognise that their expectations have been met to a high standard, with the bonus of their home being accessible.
In just three weeks of moving in, it was easy for John and Jenny to be as creative as they wanted to be when putting their furniture and personal items to make their home even more theirs.
// I couldn’t believe it. I walked in the door, and I thought, “wow, my God. Look at this!” //Mrs Diprose on her first impressions of Constable Road
Personal wellbeing is of paramount importance in the design of accessible, age-friendly homes. During the interview, John and Jenny explained the impact that their old home had on reducing their opportunities to travel, particularly because their previous home lacked parking. The impact this had on their wellbeing was evident. By incorporating an in-curtilage driveway, their new home has offered them a new lease of life and the easy-to-maintain house and garden provide them with a positive environment. With six neighbouring homes, they have also built a strong community with their neighbours, bringing them a great sense of community in the area.
// I love it! I love it because we can sit outside every evening. //Mrs Diprose talking on the wellbeing benefits of their new home.
The positive impact of the project on the lives of Mr and Mrs Diprose is evident. Not only has the design accommodated their accessibility needs, but it has also improved their quality of life. They are happier, have a greater sense of independence, and have created a good circle of friends on the street. In her own words, Jenny explained, “This is our forever home. It’s the home we’ll be in for the rest of our lives.”
Looking to the future
BPTW’s work with Gravesham Council includes Valley Drive and Whitehill Lane to provide a total of eighty affordable homes in Gravesham. In recognition of its quality, Valley Drive was shortlisted for the 2020 Housing Design Awards and is a testament to BPTW’s and Gravesham Council’s design vision for the scheme – to aid and influence senior residents in the community to live in homes suited for them and to simultaneously accelerate the supply of larger family homes.
Since Constable Road, we have secured planning permission for more affordable developments like Albert Murray Close. This scheme will regenerate a vacant site with four new apartments and two bungalows designed for older people or residents with impaired mobility. This approach focused on meeting the specific needs of older people in Gravesham continues to encourage greater movement in the Council’s housing chain that also brings wider benefits to those in the area through greater availability of appropriate homes.
Neill Campbell is a Partner at BPTW and has worked with Gravesham Borough Council for almost a decade. As a result of his extensive experience in council housebuilding, Neill regularly presents to professional bodies, such as the NLA, The Housing Forum and Future of London, on the development potential of residential sites across London and the South East. He also represents BPTW on Future of London’s Council-led Housing Forum.