Young and old celebrate opening together

A Kent housing association’s commitment to creating a community feel around its extra care schemes was highlighted when guests at the opening of Beeches in Dover were welcomed by seven year-olds from a nearby school.


Brooke, Eva, Oscar, Leon and Travis were the stars of the show at the opening of the last of five new extra care schemes being managed by West Kent.

Pupils from the nearby Whitfield Aspen Primary School are regular visitors to the smart new apartments, designed for over 55s with a care need, and have been teaching the residents Makaton sign language.

The residents used their new-found skills when they joined the youngsters – and special needs teacher Natalie Sparnon – in signing a welcome to the guests at the opening ceremony.

Cllr Diane Marsh, Kent County Council’s Deputy Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, then asked the youngsters to join her in cutting the official ribbon and declaring the scheme open. Earlier she had praised the partnership work of the organisations involved in delivering the 40-apartment accommodation.

Cllr Marsh was joined at the opening of Beeches, the last of five schemes unveiled this year as a result of the Kent Excellent Homes for All private finance initiative, by West Kent Chief Executive Frank Czarnowski, who stressed: “Kent needs more homes like this and we will do our bit to make sure it gets them.”

The scheme reflects the commitment of a partnership that brings together Kent County Council, Dover District Council, Kent EHFA ProjectCo, West Kent, Galliford Try Partnerships and Galliford Try Facilities Management.

The £100 million Kent Excellent Homes for All PFI project has provided 218 extra care apartments across five sites in Kent for people over the age of 55 with a social care need. Two more schemes providing supported accommodation for vulnerable adults take the total number of homes to 238, all of them managed by West Kent.

Beeches – like the other four extra care schemes – provides independent living but with care available on-site if needed. As well as spacious apartments, residents benefit from a restaurant, bar, lounge, laundry, gym/dance studio, hair salon and activities/computer suite. The communal facilities are available for hire by local groups.

Whitfield Aspen is a fully inclusive school – one of just a few in the county – where mainstream children mix and learn with others with profound and multiple learning issues, which makes signing an important part of their day.

“Coming to Beeches and meeting the older people is really valuable to us and we hope it gives the residents as much pleasure as it does the youngsters,” said teacher Natalie.

The 20 one-bed and 20 two-bed apartments have a spacious lounge, kitchen and accessible bathroom with level access shower, and each one has either a patio or a balcony.

Built by Galliford Try Partnerships, the schemes are being managed by West Kent under a 25-year contract, while Galliford Try Facilities Management will repair and maintain the buildings and grounds.