Gardens & wildlife

Richmond House as a Care Home

Planning officers at Brighton and Hove City Council acted wisely if it is true that they steered Matsim Properties Ltd away from their initial idea for the Richmond House site - a mixed use redevelopment scheme including 10,000 sq.ft. of offices with 33 flats over, approached from Richmond Road.

However, the alternative scheme, now under consideration, 144 rooms for students is no better. Excavating down to The Centenary Industrial Estate to allow a 5-storey block of residences to be built there introduces further complications.

1. preparing the site would be very expensive so the amount of accommodation would need to be excessive (both for existing residents in Round Hill and for the comfort of occupants) to allow the scheme to be economically viable.

2. conceding "the principle of development" (for a vast number of homes) on an industrial estate, would not be a wise decision for planners to make or planning committees to support. Industrial estates are needed for the purposes for which they are designed. See The Argus 1st March 2013 Fears of jobs exodus from Brighton and Hove.

3. stretching the application site into new territory (perhaps a separate freehold!) so that it has accesses both on the industrial estate and in Round Hill (8 metres up) does not really provide a suitable "car-free" alternative to Matsim's abandoned scheme.

The Hughes Road access to the building, being at the junction of service roads needed for industrial vehicles and Sainsbury trucks & vans, provides a tiny area where pedestrians can congregate. It is neither going to be pleasant or safe as an access for 129 occupants or 186 bicycle users. All services, visitors and vehicles dropping off or collecting occupants &/or their belongings would have to approach via Round Hill, where the infratructure for these functions is already stretched beyond what is comfortable for existing residents.

Extra care housing, for example
This is just one idea. Other local residents may be able to suggest better, but the point here is that planning briefs for our neighbourhood would probably benefit from the participation of local residents to prevent a lot of ratepayers' and developer's money being wasted on proposals which are not at all useful even as starting-points.

What is extra care housing
There is an excellent fact sheet (19-page PDF) at www.housinglin.org.uk, which illustrates the various forms which extra care housing can take.

Is it needed and who would pay for it?
"Yes", if The Argus report No end in sight to A & E crisis is correct.

Page 1 of the fact sheet provides a relevant answer especially in the context of pressures on beds in both our city and our county's hospitals.
Extra care housing is gaining a reputation for being able to accommodate people who would otherwise be frequent users of acute services, largely because their housing is unsuitable for them to self-care. It is also arguably a better accommodation option than long-term care for older people unable to return home after a period in hospital because their housing is unsuitable – a proportion of whom are often referred to as ‘delayed discharges’. Clearly, as tax and ratepayers, we are already paying the high cost of keeping people (sometimes our own relatives) in hospitals when they could be both more suitably and more cheaply be looked after in accommodation tailored to their needs which also provided for the local community in which it is located.

Community outlets and links
My belief is that a well judged amount of extra care housing would work very well on The Richmond House site in the context of our community. It is better if residents within extra care housing are nor cut off from a supportive community. Community links could be fostered through providing some shared space where neighbours in Round Hill and the people within the tailor-made homes can meet.

Many of our dwellings in Round Hill are vertical in design with a lot of stairs, reflecting the hilly terrain of most of our streets. D'Aubigny Road is a slightly flatter street. Less mobile residents in Round Hill, some perhaps living with dementia, may be early candidates for extra care housing, though there are plenty of other hill streets and residents with disabling conditions in our city.

It is a myth that you have to be selfish in order to have fun and find happiness in life. Some of the most enjoyable events which The Round Hill Society has organised (e.g. our Clean-up in autumn 2012) involved people of all ages doing something both for their neighbours and for their neighbourhood. Lack of outlets for people with a lot of energy to spend is what leads to feelings of frustration and lack of fulfilment.

The right design and amount
Page 14 of the fact sheet contains important caveats, which are relevant to all good planning proposals.

We are warned that the "extra care" label is misused when developments do not incorporate the features which make buildings appropriate for people in need of extra support into their designs. Equally important are the support services and these depend critically on the quality of community links i.e. how comfortably the new development would sit within our neighbourhood.

Amount needs to be well judged (a) to avoid alienating the very neighbours who would offer support to the finished development and (b) to show sensitivity to the prospective residents: the feel of 'a home' rather than 'halls' needs to dictate the amount as well as the design of the accommodation.

Access would obviously have to be via Round Hill only and not through an industrial estate. There would need to be some 'blue badge' parking, though an area no bigger than the current Richmond House car park would look after this.

With good on-site facilities (e.g. space for a visiting chiropodist to work), the comings and goings would be far less than bustle usually generated by student halls of residence. There would be no need to extend the current footprint of the site to excavate down to an industrial estate, so a much smaller developent should still be economically viable given our city's urgent need for extra care housing located within supportive neighbourhoods.

It would be desirable to incorporate a little space to foster community links. Round Hill is so short of this space that committee members of The Round Hill Society hold their monthly meetings in one another's homes. It would be a pleasure to be able to talk "to" people in need of extra company and support and not just "about" them.
This page was last updated by Ted on 26-Nov-2013
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