Roddons and Fenland District Council answer questions on future of sheltered housing

SHELTERED housing in Fenland is under review, provoking strong feelings among residents. Roddons says future emphasis will need to be on ‘lifetime homes’ and extra care accommodation. We asked Roddons and Fenland District Council some important questions.

Q CAN you confirm if retention of sheltered housing schemes at The Dale in Elm and Napier Court/Elizabeth Terrace in Wisbech was a condition of transfer of housing stock?

ANO, it wasn’t. Roddons’ obligation was to improve services and to modernise sheltered housing schemes and stock.

The problem with Napier Court and modernisation is that the design and layout of the building and individual properties is such that it is impossible to bring them up to modern and reasonable standards.

All our other sheltered housing schemes have been brought up to the Government’s Decent Homes Standard by the end of July 2010.

Residents expect high standards and the fact is that for a long period prior to transfer, and for Roddons after it, both Napier Court and The Dale have seen very significant - and rising - empty property levels.

Vacancies have not been able to be filled due to applicants not being willing to live in such cramped, poorly designed bedsit accommodation.

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Q CAN you confirm the process by which Fenland monitors the conditions of transfer?

A FENLAND District Council holds quarterly officer meetings at which Roddons submits a detailed statistical return which itemises progress against all the Transfer Promises. Progress is also scrutinised by the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee – and Roddons is due to appear before it again in December.

Q HAS Roddons made provision to replace these schemes which are now being lost?

A NO – not in the same form. The review identified that both Napier Court and The Dale were unsuitable for sheltered accommodation.

Regarding plans to meet future needs, see question 7. We cannot replace sheltered schemes on a like-for-like basis unless there is clear evidence of current and future demand for this within these locations - and there is not.

Both sites are likely to be redeveloped as general needs accommodation, but with an emphasis upon “lifetime homes” principles in terms of residents being able to remain in occupation in their later years.

However, both Roddons and Fenland are determined not to rush - or be rushed - into redevelopment proposals. This will help us ensure that the redevelopments are the right kind of accommodation in the right place and, in the case of Napier Court, contribute positively to the regeneration of Wisbech.

Q HAS Roddons notified Fenland District Council of any other schemes which could be threatened with closure?

A WE need to be really clear that sheltered housing review does not mean closure.

For example, under the Sheltered Review process, North Witchford Lodge is presently being consulted upon in relation to a modernisation scheme which will see the construction of an on-site GP surgery and improved accommodation.

Fenland are fully aware - via our regular quarterly liaison discussions - as to the schemes to be subject to review.

It is important to stress that the review process looks at each individual scheme on its merits, and therefore will not necessarily result in closure as has been the case with Napier Court and The Dale.

Q DID Fenland District Council have input into the consultation process for closure of the Elm and Wisbech schemes and if so what did it say?

A FENLAND was fully involved and consulted as part of the review - and was supportive of both the consultation process and its outcomes, as Cllr Kit Owen, the Portfolio Holder for Housing, acknowledged in May.

Q RODDONS also said, if the housing report presented to council in 2007 is correct, that it would increase to 13 the number of wardens being deployed in sheltered scheme. Is this correct?

A PRESUMABLY the report you refer to is Fenland District Council’s 2007 Housing Strategy report, which predates Roddons.

However, the subsequent Promises Document establishes the principle of one Scheme Manager per sheltered housing scheme and this is exactly what our service provision and model is based upon.

Q WHAT plans has Fenland District Council for providing the numbers of sheltered housing units needed as stated in the 2007 housing strategy report?

A A COUNTY-wide review of sheltered housing in around 2004/05 indicated that there was no further need for new sheltered housing schemes as often residents had to fit the scheme rather than the a service tailored to the needs of the resident.

What it revealed instead was a big unmet need for extra care accommodation such as Jubilee Court in March and now the new scheme at Doddington Hospital.

It also said that there was a big unmet need for floating support for older residents in their existing housing.

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