Friday, 12 August 2022

£3.5m sheltered housing scheme opened

A NEW £5.3million social housing scheme for the elderly in Goring has officially opened.

A NEW £5.3million social housing scheme for the elderly in Goring has officially opened.

Towse Court was built by housing association Soha on the site of its old Sixties flats and bungalows at Icknield Place, off Icknield Road.

The 27 units were knocked down in 2013 and have been replaced with a three-storey complex containing 40 sheltered flats to rent or buy.

The project was completed earlier this year and the first occupants moved in in April. All the places have now been taken.

On Friday, Henley MP John Howell unveiled a plaque to mark the opening and met residents.

He was joined by South Oxfordshire District Council leader John Cotton, Oxfordshire County Council chairman John Sanders and Soha chief executive Richard Peacock, who gave speeches.

Also present were Kevin Bulmer, chairman of Goring Parish Council, and his wife Mary, a parish councillor.

The dignitaries enjoyed refreshments before taking a tour of the building.

Towse Court is named after Sir Beachcroft Towse, an army captain who was awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry during the Boer War.

He was living in Goring when he died in 1948 and is buried in the grounds of St Thomas’s Church.

The complex is an “extra care” scheme meaning that, unlike a care home, each flat is a self-contained dwelling but the residents still have access to on-site care and nursing, provided by the Orders of St John Care Trust.

It has several communal facilities, including a hair salon, computer room, lounge, restaurant and small cinema.

Optional activities are organised every week, as are visits to day centres in the area.

All the units are “affordable”, meaning the rent or buying price is fixed at 80 per cent of the market value, and most residents previously lived in or near Goring.

Thirty flats are rented while the other 10 were sold on a 99-year leasehold.

Home are open to anyone over 55 who needs some level of care.

John Wright, 83, formerly of Cleeve Down, was the first to move in and now shares a flat with his Yorkshire terrier Molly.

He said: “It’s fantastic — I couldn’t have asked for anywhere better to live. I really enjoy having the chance to mix with other people.”

Rose Duncan, 74, previously lived at the Icknield Place flats. She said: “It’s so much nicer than it used to be.

“You’re free to spend time alone but there’s lots to do with everyone else. I’d be very lonely if I wasn’t living here.”

There was strong opposition from neighbours and Goring Parish Council when the plans for Towse Court were unveiled in 2012.

Objectors said the building would overlook their homes and looked too urbanised for its rural surroundings. This prompted Soha to reduce the number of units from 42. Councillor Bulmer said the advantages for the community outweighed the drawbacks.

He said: “The size was a shock for local people but the finished product is a superb facility.

“The old flats were well past their sell-by date and unfit for purpose.

“It’s still more urban than some might like but I appreciate that Soha needed the economies of scale. It’s the best result we could have hoped for.” Mr Peacock said: “I hope residents are happy with the compromises we’ve made and are now proud to have this superb facility in Goring.

“Their concern was understandable but the site is surrounded by houses and the proposal just wouldn’t have worked with fewer than 40 units.”

Mr Howell said: “This is a fantastic place and a valuable asset to have in South Oxfordshire. I’m grateful to everyone who helped put it together.

“Extra care is very useful because it’s much better suited to the needs of individual residents and doesn’t take a one-size-fits-all approach.”

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