England: First UK scheme to include community housing for people with sight loss approved

Redhill_Plateau ViewA pioneering residential scheme of 102 new homes in Redhill, Surrey which will integrate community housing for blind and partially sighted people with homes for private sale, has been granted planning consent.

The joint venture between developer Countryside and sight loss charity Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) is the first of its kind in the UK and is expected to set a new standard for supported living.

The scheme, designed by Gardner Stewart Architects, will see the redevelopment of the existing RNIB Community Living Service facilities to provide new homes for 50 RNIB residents, alongside 77 new build three, four, and five bedroom houses, which will be available for private sale. The development also includes a wide range of community facilities such as a sensory garden which was a Gold Award winner at the 2014 Chelsea Flower Show.

Getting around the development was a key consideration for the developers who have used natural landscaping to replace traditional wayfinding tools such as handrails.

“We are excited to be working with RNIB on a development that is set to be a model for integrated supported living,” said Graham Cherry, CEO of Countryside’s New Homes and Communities division. “Bringing together sighted, partially sighted and blind people, the scheme will provide an environment to benefit the whole community and the addition of such a unique aspect as the sensory garden only serves to make this development even more special.”

Karen Deacon, RNIB’s director of education and care, added: “Our priority at RNIB is to provide high quality facilities which allow blind and partially sighted people to live independent lives. As a charity, we’re always looking for new and innovative ways to help us to do this as well as we possibly can. The Redhill development is the first time a charity has worked with a private developer to create an integrated, inclusive community and we’re very excited to be working with Countryside on this project.”

General view of the RNIB Mind's Eye Garden
The RNIB Mind’s Eye Garden

The development will include both shared and private accommodation for blind and partially sighted people. All properties will benefit from accessible features to ensure residents can live independently. The RNIB facilities will also include a café for the use of the whole community as well as recreation, training and employment services for residents with sight loss.

In re-imagining the site as a vibrant, integrated community fit for the 21st Century; the design creates a series of distinct character areas. Contemporary homes will be part of the natural topography, whilst the public realm is designed as an exciting sensory experience for all residents. New homes will feature expansive floor to ceiling glazing, extensive balconies and roof terraces, with a range of façade treatments to suit each character area.

Construction is planned to start at the beginning of 2016.