Ashford Borough Council has scooped the Best Social or Affordable New Housing Development award at the LABC South East Building Excellence Awards for its wheelchair-standard Noakes Meadow scheme.
DCB Ltd / RDA Consulting Architects / Pellings LLP
Noakes Meadow comprises two affordable homes suitable for wheelchair users. The council had already identified the site for development but by pre-allocating one of the two-bedroom bungalows for Mr and Mrs MacGregor, it was able to liaise closely with the couple to provide a bespoke build to fully take into account Mrs MacGregor’s disability.
Occupational therapists who viewed the semi-detached property during its construction had commented that it should be the blueprint for the type of bespoke wheelchair-standard accommodation that ought to be built across the country.
The Noakes Meadow project team included Ashford Borough Council, contractors DCB (Kent) Ltd, RDA Consulting Architects (Kent) Ltd, and Pellings LLP.
The property at Noakes Meadow has square rooms with a wide hallway in which turning circles are possible for Carole in her powered wheelchair. The wet room is accessed via two very wide doorways and the wooden flooring throughout enables Carole to use her standing aid, something that is not possible on carpet. Sections of the internal walls could be removed to enable a hoist to be fitted in the property in due course, should Carole require one to still enjoy their home.
In the kitchen, the worktop heights can be adjusted to enable Carole to cook and wash up should she so wish and all of the cupboards are also fully accessible. The smaller paved garden is also wheelchair friendly and will enable Carole to plant in pots and enjoy the sunshine throughout the summer months.
When Ashford Borough Council handed over the property to the couple in February last year, Carole MacGregor said: “It’s just amazing, the council and DCB have bent over backwards to accommodate us. Finally someone has understood a disabled person’s every need. I have been included in the design process from the outset and am beyond pleased with the result. I am so grateful to everyone involved.”
There are three accessible standards for new builds under Part M of the Building Regulations:
- M4(1) which is visitable (and which every new dwelling must achieve and is the default Building Control checking position)
- M4(2) which is adaptable (an optional standard that can be imposed in a planning consent), which means the dwelling layouts can be adapted to be reasonably suitable for all in the future with some alterations.
- M4(3) which is fully accessible for wheelchair users (an optional standard that can be imposed in a planning consent), which effectively means the dwelling layouts are suitable for all from the outset. This is the most onerous standards, and it is not considered possible, once built, to even adapt an M4(2) dwelling to achieve this M4(3) standard.
Cllr Bill Barrett, Ashford Borough Council comments: “Initially the homes at Noakes Meadow were to just meet the M4(1) standard as there was no planning condition stipulating otherwise. However, when the council became aware of the MacGregor’s situation, we met with them and decided that the best way forward would be to redesign the layout to be fully M4(3) compliant. We managed to turn this redesign around in a week, as the on-site build was already at ground floor beam and block level and we couldn’t really afford a delay to the build programme.”
Fortunately the initial design for Noakes Meadow lends itself to a workable redesign to achieve the M4(3) standard. The extra build costs to achieve this standard compared to the initial M4(1) standard have been less than half that quoted in Government documents, which represents a great result for Ashford Borough Council.