Howard Cottage sheltered housing scheme for Letchworth's Hamonte gets the green light

PUBLISHED: 15:48 26 May 2017 | UPDATED: 15:48 26 May 2017

Howard Cottage Housing Association chief executive John Welch with the Hamonte plans, with a photo of the old Hamonte building behind him. Picture: Howard Cottage Housing Association

Howard Cottage Housing Association chief executive John Welch with the Hamonte plans, with a photo of the old Hamonte building behind him. Picture: Howard Cottage Housing Association

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A plan to knock down and rebuild a Letchworth sheltered housing scheme to provide flats for the elderly was approved last night.

A 3D schematic showing how the proposed Howard Cottage sheltered housing redevelopment at Hamonte would be laid out. Picture: The Design PartnershipA 3D schematic showing how the proposed Howard Cottage sheltered housing redevelopment at Hamonte would be laid out. Picture: The Design Partnership

Howard Cottage Housing Assocation’s plan to replace the two-storey, 39-unit sheltered apartment block in Hamonte on the Jackmans estate was unanimously approved by North Herts District Council’s planning control committee, meeting in the Spirella Ballroom off Bridge Road.

The proposed multi-storey redevelopment will provide 71 affordable two-bedroom homes for over-55s, along with a communal lounge with kitchen, hair salon, buggy store and manager’s office.

Urging the committee to give the green light, Howard Cottage chief executive John Welch said the scheme ‘addresses a huge number of needs for all demographics’.

He said: “The current scheme was constructed in the early 1970s. It has a poor layout, lack of level access and other problems.

“The cost of improvement would be over £3 million, so we developed a proposal and offered it to our Hamonte residents, asking if they would vacate and then come back.

“It’s a massive thing for our elderly residents, being asked to move in some cases twice, and we were delighted to learn that support for the scheme was almost unanimous – a mark of how needed this work is.

“This is a scheme that addresses a huge number of needs for all demographics in Letchworth. A degree of future flexibility has been built in to meet future needs.”

Mr Welch said that in the midst of the current housing crisis, with supply not meeting demand, the rebuild might encourage older people to downsize and free up homes for younger families.

“We’ve absolutely certain this kind of offer will encourage people to downsize. The scheme is accessible to all in physical terms and in financial terms as the whole cost will be paid for by Howard Cottage.

“It’s all lined up and ready to go. We have elderly residents in temporary accommodation ready to move into their new homes, and we have a list of young families who will benefit from the accommodation that will be freed up elsewhere.”

Objections to the plan came from Hassan Ali, of Goldon, who attempted to invoke the European Convention on Human Rights – arguing that the proposed development would violate his family’s privacy, impact on their health and reduce the value of his house.

Mr Ali also stressed the narrowness of the road leading to the development, where he said it was ‘almost impossible for a van to get through’, and questioned whether 46 parking spaces would be enough for the 71-flat development.

District council development and conservation manager Simon Ellis advised in response that the plan calls for permanent obscure glass in upper-floor rooms facing Goldon to help maintain neighbours’ privacy.

Councillor Ian Mantle, who represents Letchworth East, said: “I think this is a very worthwhile scheme. Looking around the rest of the Jackmans estate it’s not out of keeping with Ivel Court or Jarden. I think the advantages to Letchworth to having such a scheme are great and I can’t see any disadvantages.”

Councillor Michael Muir, of the neighbouring Baldock Town ward, added: “I can confirm what’s been said by Councillor Mantle. I am in full agreement with this scheme and would wish to second it.”

The plan was approved unanimously.

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