An innovative project that’s set to benefit homeless households and save local taxpayers money has opened in Ashford.

Ashford Borough Council bought the large disused home in Beaver Road for £430,000 and has invested around £500,000 to convert it into eight homes, capable of accommodating up to 25 people. An extensive refurbishment programme has been completed, adding facilities like a communal kitchen, dining room and laundry room.

Christchurch Lodge, as the building has been renamed, follows the same blueprint adopted by the council when it created Christchurch House, a rundown property bought at auction for £278,000 in 2013. It was transformed into good quality short-stay accommodation and was so successful that the money saved on placing homeless people in costly B&Bs meant that Christchurch House paid for itself in four years.

Cllr Bill Barrett, portfolio holder for housing, said tackling homelessness was a huge priority for the authority. He said both the prevention of homelessness and using the council’s own stock to house homeless people, rather than using costly B&Bs, made financial sense.

Cllr Bill Barrett cuts the ribbon to officially open Christchurch Lodge, helped by Ashford Borough Council’s Head of Housing Sharon Williams.

“Following the blueprint of Christchurch House is a win-win strategy. For six years it has offered households a better solution than the upheaval of living out of a B&B. It is also good news that the council has saved considerable sums of money it would have had to pay in B&B costs. We are proud of the proactive approach we take to delivering new housing projects.”

En suite appartment

Kent-based Jenner Contractors carried out the Christchurch Lodge conversion in what turned out to be a testing project due to the pandemic. Work recommenced in May 2020 after a month-long halt and contractors adopted new working practises to allow for social distancing guidelines on site.

Communal kitchen

A feature of the project has been the commitment to using high-quality products and materials to ensure maximum build quality, environmental sustainability and energy efficiency. This has resulted in securing an Energy Performance Certificate with a Band B rating – up from an estimated Band E rating prior to the refurbishment.

This is a significant achievement in building energy performance, made all the more remarkable given the physical limitations of an existing 19th Century building compared to a blank canvas design of a new-build scheme.

By Ed

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