£8 million Penrith scheme boosts affordable housing provision

22nd Jun 2012

Work has been completed on the first phase of the £8 million expansion of the Eden Rural Foyer facility in Old London Road, Penrith, giving a welcome boost to the stock of affordable housing in the town. Developer Atkinson Homes - a Penrith-based firm - has handed over the completed £4 million first phase to Impact Housing, which already provided 15 self-contained flats for single people aged 16-25 in the existing Foyer building, which was formerly the Town's Regent Cinema.

The Foyer also house the Cyber Cafe, meeting rooms and conference facilities, and is used as a base by Inspira, a social enterprise agency working mainly with youngsters ages 13-17. The new development, adjoining the existing building and on the site of a former used car business, contains 27 affordable one and two-bedroomed apartments, of which 17 have already been let by Impact, some of them to young families.

The remaining 10 are to be run by Leonard Cheshire Disability, a charity which helps people with physical impairments, learning difficulties and long term health conditions to live independently and participate fully in society. One of these will be used by a warden.

Additionally, much of the ground floor of the new building will become a Sure Start children's centre which is to be run for Cumbria County Council by the charity Barnardo's, which works with vulnerable children across the UK. It will provide a variery of advice and support oppourtunities for parents and carers, with facilities including a training room, creche, space for health visitors, rooms for private one-to-one meetins, a resource library and offices.

Mike Muir, cheif executive of Impact, said: "The main thing is we now have an integrated facility for all families and children to meet together with agencies, without duplicating what's already in the area." He added that the only potential gap in provision is for children aged 7-13, but he hopes to find the resources to cover this age group.

Atkinson Homes director Barry Turner said he was delighted with how the development had gone over the 18 months the firm had been at work on the site, and that the completed first phase is an impressive building which is a huge improvement over the old car "shed" which formerly occupied the site. The building incorporates a variety of new technology, including solar photovaltaic panels and a combined heat and power plant, which will reduce its running costs and minimise damage to the environment. Mr. Turner said the Foyer contract was the largest handled by Atkinson Homes, and paid tribute to the work done by the construction team, particularly developments manager John Bousfield and site foreman Nigel McCombie who received an accolade for his role under the building industry's Considerate Constructors Scheme.

Mr. Turner added that work on the second and final phase of the contract is well under way and should be completed by October or November. This is on the other side of Old London Road and will comprise 33 affordable housing units, including two, three and four bed-roomed homes, which will also be run by Impact Housing.

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