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Under construction: The biggest council-homes build since the 70s

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Over the past year work has started in Nottingham on the biggest council-home building programme since the seventies. Four hundred new council homes will be built over the next four years, creating much-needed family accommodation, flats and sheltered housing, to meet the local housing needs across the city.


The programme forms part of the Nottingham City Council’s (NCC) overall Building a Better Nottingham scheme, which over the next five years will see more than £1bn invested in the city’s housing, road infrastructure, tram network, leisure facilities and retail centres.

The city’s ALMO (Arms Length Management Organisation), Nottingham City Homes (NCH) is working closely with NCC on transforming Nottingham’s neighbourhoods and creating homes and places where people want to live.

Work started last year on the first phase of the programme, which includes 26 properties built on four disused garage sites across the city.

Carried out by Nottinghamshire-based construction firm, Robert Woodhead Limited, the scheme was completed early in March 2014.

Since the first phase began 38,000 people hours have enabled the local family firm to complete four separate sites in Bestwood, Top Valley, Aspley and Sneinton, to modern building standards.

The derelict garage sites had previously not only been unused, but had attracted a range of anti-social behaviour and crime. Now these have been transformed into new communities with modern, efficient, sustainable homes.

A local company themselves, Robert Woodhead made sure that over 95% of all plant labour and materials were sourced within 20 miles. They also ensured nearly 100% of waste from site was reused or recycled.

All homes were built to Code 4 of the Code for Sustainable Homes Standard, using a fabric-first approach. This makes sure the properties meet high levels of energy efficiency, use sustainable technologies such as solar photovoltaic panels, and can be adapted as Lifetime homes.

The Henning Gardens site in Top Valley has won a Considerate Constructors Award, with all four sites receiving above average scores from the Considerate Constructors Scheme (CCS), which monitors its members against a strict set of standards, designed to encourage best practice, beyond the statutory requirements of any building site.

The Geraldine Close development in Bestwood has also been nominated in the Chartered Institute of Housing’s UK Housing Awards 2014.

Nick Murphy, Chief Executive of Nottingham City Homes, said: “The first phase of our Building a Better Nottingham programme goes to prove how building new homes can transform communities.

“We have a responsibility when working on such huge programmes of work to make sure the impact we have is not just on the individuals who move into these new homes, but the surrounding community and the wider city itself.”

The next phase of the programme is not just about building new homes, but managing the demolition of eight of the city’s tower blocks. These will be replaced with family housing, bungalows and an Independent Living scheme.

The biggest single site is based in the Lenton area of the city, where demolition work is currently underway. The site just off Derby Road has been home to five 16-storey tower blocks since they were built in the sixties. Two of the blocks already been demolished, as well as a two storey garage building. Tenants are still living in two of the blocks, but it is expected these will all be empty and demolished within 18 months.

Demolition experts, Total Reclaims, are taking the flats down using the ‘top down’ method. Bringing them down in this way enables the demolition team to safely strip out any reusable items from inside, before beginning to gradually remove the outer walls. The top few floors are removed with the aid of a specialist robotic demolition tool, which is operated remotely by one of the engineers and the remaining floors are taken down with the aid of a high-reach machine. Nearly 99% of all material removed will either be reused or recycled.

Once completed, the new neighbourhood will include 142 homes – a mix of family homes, bungalows, flats and an Independent Living Scheme for older residents.

Flagship programme

Now working in parallel with the demolition process, construction partner, Keepmoat, began work on the Independent Living Scheme in November 2013. Flats in this scheme are being made available to the existing residents of Newgate Court, one of the 16-storey tower blocks, which will be the last to be demolished.

The programme has been timed so residents of Newgate Court will be able to move straight into the new ILS scheme, Palmer Court, in order to minimise the disruption, as many residents are elderly and have lived there for more than 40 years.

Work also began at the start of this year on the second biggest site across the city, in Radford. Construction partner, Wates Living Space, will be building 52 family homes to replace the three tower blocks that were demolished earlier this year.

The Building a Better Nottingham scheme is becoming a flagship programme for many reasons, not least in the use of Nottingham City Homes’ existing employees to build a number of the new homes.

At Eddleston Drive in the south of the city, five family homes are being built by NCH’s direct labour organisation – a first for ALMOs across the country.

It has given apprentices the opportunity to learn how things operate on a building site, and gain ‘real’ on-the-job experience of a variety of construction techniques and situations. These skills ordinarily would only have been acquired through theory or limited opportunities in ‘mock-up’ situations in the classroom at college.

Janet Storar, Chair of the Board at Nottingham City Homes, said: “Being a tenant myself, I have often benefited from the work that our direct labour organisation do to repair and maintain my home. There is some real experience, skills and knowledge in our workforce, and we want to really put this to the test on our new-build site in Clifton.”

The next phase in the programme, recently received a boost as plans for 49 new homes were approved for the Cranwell Road site in Strelley, currently occupied by crosswall flats.

Demolition of the flats, which is being carried out this summer, will clear the site, enabling construction of the new properties to begin in September 2014. The development will include 20 two bedroom family homes, 17 two bedroom bungalows and 12 flats.

Councillor Alex Ball, Executive Assistant with responsibility for housing and regeneration, said: “We are watching our city transform on a daily basis, and I have already been delighted to see the incredible work that has gone into this first phase of our council housing programme.

“Not only are we providing warm, secure homes, built to modern building standards, but we are also creating local jobs and training opportunities, supporting local businesses, and creating places where people want to live.”

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