The board of Merlin Housing Society has confirmed that Filton’s Newleaze House sheltered housing scheme is to close, allowing the property to undergo a “change of use”.
The decision confirms a recommendation made to the board following a review of all 50 of the group’s supported housing schemes in South Gloucestershire, carried out by Ark Housing Consultancy.
Newleaze House was one of ten schemes identified by the consultants as needing “considerable investment to remain as supported housing schemes in the medium to long term”.
The decision comes after many rounds of meetings and informal and formal consultation with residents, local Councillors and MPs.
Sally Wilcox, Head of Supported Housing for Merlin, said:
“We wanted to engage residents and show that we were listening to them throughout this process.”
“We’ve written to residents this week to tell them the outcome and invite them to a meeting to explain the next steps and give them a very rough timescale for when those steps will happen.”
The meeting at Newleaze House will take place between 10am and 11am on Friday 6th July.
“Newleaze just isn’t suitable for older people as it is – especially for accessibility reasons. The decision to recommend a change of use influenced by the relatively high cost of either redeveloping the existing building into improved older people’s housing (£117k per unit) or remodelling the existing building as general needs housing (£72k per unit).”
“As a not-for-profit organisation, we have a responsibility to ensure that we get the best value for money from our residents rent.”
“In the packs that we sent to residents, we used student accommodation as an example of change of use. Some local residents have expressed concern at this.”
“However, this decision does not mean that this is definitely what the change of use will be. As our report to our board stated:
‘For Newleaze House, where we are recommending a change of use, there is a requirement for some careful market research before that change of use is finalised.'”
“We can’t at this stage give any definite idea of what will happen when, but we do not envisage being in a position to start any actual work on this site until at least January 2017.”
“We know the prospect of change is very worrying for our residents. We’re committed to working with them on a one-to-one basis to ensure that they are supported through this process.”
Of the 40 tenants at Newleaze House – a linked series of separate units with many internal steps and four staircases – almost half gave their formal feedback on the consultation options.
According to Merlin, three quarters of those responding agreed with the recommended option, i.e. a change of use.
Buckingham House, Merlin’s other sheltered housing scheme in Filton, was also one of the ten under review. The board has confirmed the recommendation that it be “remodelled for improved older people’s housing”. A residents’ meeting will be held there on Monday 9th July between 12pm and 1pm to share the decision and explain the next steps in the process.