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Cosy communal lounge area at East Stour Court in Ashford

Ashford Borough Council opens £7.1m East Stour Court

Published: 16/11/2021

A landmark in Ashford Borough Council’s multi-million pound modernisation plan for its sheltered housing schemes has seen the re-opening of the £7.1m East Stour Court scheme in Ashford.

Located at Mabledon Avenue, the new-look East Stour Court provides 29 homes for affordable rent for older people, comprising 24 one bedroom and five two-bedroom apartments, built to a high quality that are care ready.

It is modelled on the multi-award-winning Farrow Court independent living scheme developed in south Ashford and the Danemore scheme, which was officially opened in Tenterden by HRH The Princess Royal in early 2020.

The first people to call East Stour Court home are enjoying a range of high quality modern facilities. There is a large cosy communal lounge and kitchen, buggy store and cycle racks. A real community feel is fostered by the inclusion of shared facilities, including ‘hubs’ or sub lounges in addition to a main communal lounge located on the ground floor.

The scheme has been designed to maximise natural daylight in each home and through the many shared spaces.

Just as much care and thought has gone into designing exterior spaces at East Stour Court. There are architect landscaped designed garden spaces with large potting shed and raised beds for residents to use, all connected with wheelchair-friendly wide paved paths.

Security and connectivity are also high priorities – the scheme has CCTV monitored both on and off site, a video door entry system, a sprinkler system fitted in every apartment, the council-controlled Lifeline system installed and free WiFi in the lounge, with Freeview and Freesat also available in each of the 29 apartments. A manager is available to ensure the smooth running of the scheme.

East Stour Court is designed to be dementia-friendly throughout, taking into account colour schemes, light, corridor lengths, patterns and memory shelves.

Like Farrow Court and Danemore before it, the scheme has been devised in recognition of the need to make special provision for the needs of an ageing population – by 2026 it is anticipated that around 40% of the residents within the borough will be aged over 50.

East Stour Court has cost around £7.1m, paid for through the council’s housing revenue account and grant funding from Homes England equal to £39,177 per apartment.

Shared facilities at East Stour Court in Ashford

Cllr Paul Clokie, portfolio holder for Housing, said: “We have a strong track record of taking an innovative approach to delivering quality accommodation that meets the needs of our residents. Our approach to the health and housing agenda is leading the way and gives people the chance to live independently, providing many cost, social and health benefits.

“Farrow Court was the first project in our proactive approach to sheltered scheme remodelling and it has set the bar high. Danemore followed and with the addition of East Stour Court we are making real progress in tackling the needs of an ageing population and helping to reduce social isolation.”

The old East Stour Court sheltered housing scheme was demolished in early 2019, with the new facility built by Westridge Construction Ltd, with architects PRP also involved. These suppliers were involved in previous independent living schemes in Ashford, ensuring supply chain efficiencies and delivering East Stour Court on time and in budget.

Building back greener

East Stour Court has admirable green credentials, including:

  • The complex has an EPC rating B and the Environmental Impact Rating B.
  • The fabric first approach we have used with thermal elements stops heat escaping and has high levels of airtightness.
  • The double glazed composite windows used are fully recyclable, environmentally friendly, energy efficient, sustainably sourced, low maintenance and cost efficient over their lifetime.
  • Underfloor heating is energy efficient, cheaper to run (up to 25% more efficient than conventional radiators), and distributes heat evenly around each room.
  • A centralised low-energy extract system ventilates each property entirely without the need to install individual extractor fans.
  • Low energy LED lighting is used throughout.
  • Communal heating and hot water is 25% more efficient than individual boilers.
  • More than 20 305W Solar PV panels are installed on the roof.
  • East Stour Court has two electric vehicle charging points.
  • Reduced water consumption through the use of low flow taps and dual flush toilets.
  • To improve biodiversity, a landscape architect was brought on board to create a landscaping scheme to support and encourage biodiversity of plants and animals. This is achieved by diversifying the range of habitats or vegetation on site.

Dahlia – a fresh look at independent living in Ashford

Ashford Borough Council’s investment in East Stour Court – and Farrow Court and Danemore before it – represents a move away from traditional sheltered housing provision, giving older residents more choice, flexibility and variety of independent living options.

The council had consulted widely with residents and staff before adopting a new model of housing provision for older folk. As a result, it created a new brand that sums up this fresh approach to independent living in the 21st century. Dahlia stands for Desirable Affordable Housing Linking Independence (and) Age.  
“The Dahlia was chosen to symbolise our approach to independent living because we believe it represents inner strength, change and dignity,” explained Sharon Williams, Head of Housing at Ashford Borough Council.

Sharon said the catalyst for change has been Britain’s ageing population, which has driven a national focus on housing provision for this sector. Nowhere is this more evident than in Ashford, where in just two years’ time it is expected that nearly a quarter of all residents will be aged 65 or over.

“The council is looking to offer a variety of living options, from community bungalows to independent communal living. Some will be in urban areas, while others will have more rural settings. All will be self-contained and provide comfortable, modern homes for affordable rent for older people. 

“We are preparing for the needs of an ageing population by building and remodelling accommodation for older people to live more independently in homes that are the right size for them. 
“This change of approach ties in with our multi-million pound modernisation plan for our old sheltered housing schemes. We are building and remodelling accommodation for older people so they can live more independently in homes that better suit their needs,” she said.

With East Stour Court now fully occupied, the next independent living scheme to be delivered will be Berry Place (formerly known as The Poplars) in South Ashford. A planning application has also been submitted for Oakleigh House.