London & South East

£200m decent homes scheme is one of country’s largest

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Social housing contract specialists Mears is ploughing on with a £200 million ten-year contract to completely refurbish Brighton & Hove City Council’s 12,500 housing stock.

In a contract believed to be one of the largest of its kind in the country, Mears is upgrading, repairing and maintaining the council’s homes and bringing them up to decent standards in line with government guidelines. Work began in 2010.

The contract builds on Mears’ existing contract with Brighton & Hove which provides responsive and void repairs, together with gas servicing and programmed, cyclical and further maintenance works to Brighton & Hove’s portfolio of council houses.

Tenants have been at the centre of a wide ranging refurbishment drive across Brighton & Hove that includes the installation of 200 new kitchens and bathrooms.

The new housing contract with Mears delivered improved homes with tenants choosing their own individual styles and colours.

Residents chose from a range of options to customise their makeovers from a selection of kitchen worktops and cupboard doors. Kitchens and bathroom works also now include full redecoration of walls and ceilings.

Not only is the local economy benefiting with 10 new local staff employed and 10 apprentices taken on board, but the environment is being protected with 100% of waste recycled.

This is being achieved through waste to power biomass generation, non combustible waste recycling and clean waste used to power 10,000 homes with green energy.

Sheltered housing residents at Jasmine Court are seeing a revamp with communal bathing facilities replaced by private shower rooms or bathrooms in all flats. These include new lower level walk-in tiled showers.

Communal kitchens have also been fitted into Sanders House, Jasmine Court and Muriel House so that older residents can cater for their increasingly busy social lives comfortably. Tenants themselves applied for funds for this initiative through the Estate Development Fund.

Newly painted homes in Portslade, among 450 that have been decorated, will be inspected annually to ensure they withstand weathering under the guarantee from paint manufacturer Dulux. New low maintenance UPCV gutters and fascias have also been fitted.

For the first time tenants have a choice of four colours for new front doors as part of the front door replacement programme, which also includes options for a low level spy hole for wheelchair users.

Mears chief executive Bob Holt said: “Working together with Brighton & Hove we can deliver the tangible improvements into the community which are so important to the people that live there.

“I believe this to be one of the largest contracts of its kind awarded in the UK ever and represents a significant move to a long term partnership for Brighton & Hove.”

As part of the long term project, Brighton and Hove City Council has been spending nearly £2m a month over the last year improving council housing in the city.

The priority was to get the number of council homes meeting the national Decent Homes standard up to 75% – a massive increase on the current figure of 60%.

Some £1.4m was earmarked for energy efficiency measures, and a further £850,000 for disabled adaptations. More than £500,000 was also spent on projects chosen by tenants.

The council is also investing in a new housing ‘super centre’ at the Fairway Trading Estate in Moulsecoomb to give tenants better customer service and quicker repairs.

A joint project with Mears, this will also include a training academy for trade apprentices and a kitchen manufacturing workshop.

The spending programme for 2010-11 is part of a three year strategy that aims to see a massive £76m spent on improving homes and neighbourhoods. All council homes will be expected to meet the Decent Homes standard by end of 2013.

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