Fitch Court residents designing new extra care homes

Written by Future Brixton

February 23, 2016
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We caught up with Mr Carlton Guy to find out how Fitch Court residents have been involved in designing their new extra care homes. Have their ideas and concerns been listened to? And what do they think of the plans for the new development.

In September 2014, we talked to Mr Carlton Guy about how residents of Fitch Court felt about their potential move to Somerleyton Road. At the time, Mr Guy, who had lived at Fitch Court for nine years and is a resident representative, left us with this challenge:

“What the council has got to prove to us is that they will involve us in the regeneration and listen to our concerns  – that we matter as residents and as a community of people and that it’s not just about a building. If this happens then Somerleyton Road could be an example for more developments to follow.”

We caught up with Mr Guy in December last year, as the final plans were about to go to planning committee. We asked how we’d measured up and he told us that: “People are very comfortable with what is on offer. This is not just building a block, it is building a community that feels family orientated. We’ll be secure and can be social.”

Working with the architects

One of the first things Mae Architects did, after being appointed to design the extra care building on Somerleyton Road, was to meet the Fitch Court residents. Over the following months they held a number of meetings with them, making sure visual materials and models were available and bringing along interpreters if necessary. They also visited individual flats and held more informal sessions to encourage everyone to get involved.

These efforts seem to have been appreciated by the residents and Mr Guy commented that “The architects listened carefully and really took on board everybody’s complaints, concerns and observations. They physically came and look at some of our flats.”

Alex Ely, Principal at Mae Architects said: “The design of Somerleyton extra care scheme blends humanity and innovation. Working collaboratively with residents we’ve created a building intended to enrich their everyday lives and avoid the often institutional character of extra care.”

How did residents shape their new homes?

Outside space

What many residents like about Fitch Court are the outdoor courtyard spaces. In the new extra care block on Somerleyton Road, outdoor space is prioritised. There are communal gardens in front of the building, a central green courtyard, which the communal living areas can open out on to, individual balconies and a roof garden on the third floor. The idea of year round outdoor space is also behind the ‘winter gardens’ – indoor double height spaces where people can relax and be social.

According to Mr Guy: “They really took on board what we like here about the open space that you can sit down. It’s not claustrophobic. Most people were very happy about the winter garden and having their own little balcony.”

Kitchens

Initially all the flats were designed with an open plan living, dining and kitchen area. However, some residents wanted separate kitchens so there are now options to have a one bedroom flat with a separate kitchen.

Bathrooms

All flats were initially designed with baths but most residents asked for showers instead as it’s more convenient. The final plans have showers that are accessible for people in wheelchairs.

Building height

Accommodation at Fitch Court is on two levels, and some residents were concerned about living on the tenth floor. Most have been reassured by the designs, which show how easy it will be to get around the building. There will be lift access to each ‘tower’. Above the first floor, four flats will be organised around each of the lift cores, with all front doors visible from the lift. The rooftop outdoor space on the linking building is a way for residents to get from one block to another.

Other concerns about moving home

Anxiety and distress

Back in 2014, Mr Guy had spoken eloquently about the particular difficulties older people face when moving home and how it can result in poor mental and / or physical health. Council officers have been working with South London and Maudsley (SLAM) NHS Foundation Trust to assess the impact of such moves and what can be done to minimise anxiety and distress. SLAM counsellors were invited to one of the resident meetings and also spoke with Fitch Court tenant representatives.

Mr Guy commented that “I’ve been saying from the start that I can’t understand how you are uprooting people and you don’t have one psychologist on the panel. And they got one!”

Central location

Fitch Court is set back from Effra Road, a short walk from the centre of Brixton and has numerous buses stopping just outside. Somerleyton Road, although not very far away, is a long road and is on only one bus route. Residents were pleased to see that the extra care building was going to be in the centre of the development, not far from the bus stop or Coldharbour Lane and the centre of Brixton.

About extra care homes in Lambeth

Extra care housing is for older people, adults with disabilities or social care needs who want to live independently but need some additional planned (and unplanned) support.  It is becoming increasingly popular and gives people the security and privacy of their own front door, alongside the peace of mind of knowing additional support is available. For many people it can provide an alternative to moving into a residential care home.

Sheltered and extra care housing are very similar. The main difference between them is that more services are offered in extra care and they are generally more modern and so designed to meet the specific needs of older people.

Find out more about extra care housing in Lambeth.

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