The project was initiated by the parent of a disabled son who was concerned that people with disabilities had little or no say in the type of property that was available for them. The Walter Segal construction method was selected as a way of building with only basic skills. Proposals were put to various local authorities before being considered positively by Colchester Borough Council who offered backing for an innovative pilot scheme which would enable people with disabilities to control the design and building of homes to cater for their individual needs.
The Council donated land as well as financial support to cover building and professional costs for the development of five bungalows. Families were selected of which the criteria was that at least one family member should have a disability with a future requirement for a wheelchair. Partnerships and contacts were established with various voluntary organisations and with Social Services for the duration of the project.
Working Agreements were established which allowed each family, plus anyone working on their behalf, to work 21 hours weekly. Those with disabilities contributed through giving clerical and other ancillary support. Additionally volunteers were contracted for a period of 18 months on the basis that they could earn a qualification through their participation. A Site and a Contract Manager were appointed and Shaftesbury Housing designated as development agents. Additionally the Housing Corporation funded a training programme for the works.
Despite many delays through funding hiccups, and major problems following the unexplained withdrawal of permits for the voluntary trainee helpers, leaving the group entirely dependent on occasional helpers who appeared on an ad-hoc basis, the project was finally completed in 1996; a year later than originally scheduled. The scheme is remarkable for many reasons not least being the fact that there were no reserve families and none of the original families dropped out. In spite of a period of very low morale, which unfortunately coincided with a pre-planned television feature, the group felt that it was all worth it in the end.
This project is also a shining example of self build housing which not only meets the needs of the occupants but also those of the funders by coming in very close to budget.
“Emotions of the self builders changed according to progress at any one time. When we felt demoralised and alone, at that time, not one of the group would have agreed to join the scheme had we realised what it entailed. Without exception we agree that in the end it was well worthwhile, as the families are now not just good neighbours but ... ... good caring friends after a remarkable experience”
Construction: Roxborough Co-op
Developer: Shaftesbury Housing Association (with CHISEL as agent)