Newark and Sherwood District Council - Appraisal for development of temporary accommodation

In early 2019, the Local Government Association commissioned Neil Morland & Co Housing Consultants to work with Newark and Sherwood District Council to complete an appraisal for the development of temporary accommodation on an existing site, Seven Hills in Newark.

Housing Advisers Programme case study

2018/19 cohort

The appraisal included consideration of current context of temporary accommodation in Newark (on the Seven Hills site), a review of the redevelopment options available, a recommendation for construction and the implications of this. Both onsite and offsite research was undertaken for this appraisal and included time with the architects working on sketches.

Newark and Sherwood District Council commissioned Neil Morland and Co. after the need to improve temporary accommodation was recognised and corporate buy-in from lead officer as well as the committee chair was established. The existing stock on the Seven Hills site was felt to be unfit for purpose and not the standard of accommodation that the council wished to provide. The site also represented a larger footprint and so there was also a desire to understand what additional housing provision may be achievable at the location.

In order to ensure that the recommendations ultimately provided were appropriate in terms of national policy, current provision and local demand expectations for the future, these were outlined and used to frame the report.

Since there was a desire to maximise the use of the land on the site, detailed considerations of the constraints were drawn. A review of the current provision was undertaken. Critical to the success of a change such as this is seeking to accommodate a wide range of perspectives from stakeholders. As such service users, both current and past, staff, management and local council members were consulted with regards to what was valued about the current provision and how the accommodation could be improved.

The initial design brief provided a starting point for initial sketches by the commissioned architects, HTA. This was further developed as a result of findings from a visit to another provider as well as further conversations with the project team and with consideration of consultation conclusions. The process allowed the council to make additional decisions regarding aspirations on the land and progress the design brief. In addition, a key requirement of the commission was to include consideration of use of modern methods of construction (MMC) in any redevelopment of the site.

Once the revised brief was established, an outline budget for capital costs was drawn. At this point, the additional general needs accommodation that had been identified as achievable on the site was not included as it was to be incorporated as part of a wider estate regeneration programme. The capital budget assumed the use of MMC.

This process allowed the opportunity to take a headline look at the rent strategy for the provision. Recommendations were made to undertake a more fundamental review as the development project progressed, with a caveat that rent remain as close to affordable as it currently stands.

In consultation with the project team at NSDC, a plan outlining the provision of accommodation was established. Within the broader context of the estate regeneration plan in a neighbouring location, it was felt that this was achievable with minimal disruption to service users’ day-to-day lives by use of void units in the wider decanting process.

A programme proposal indicating estimated timeline of the development recommended was included. Alongside that a communication strategy included both analysis of the situation and methodology to ensure that stakeholders are kept at the heart of the process ongoing.

Key risks were identified for consideration and included issues such as failure to secure support from relevant governing committees at NSDC and challenges around securing necessary additional funding. Concluding recommendations were made.

Prioritising the assets of the site in terms of operations and not losing them on the journey is key. Demonstrated clearly as part of the consultation undertaken and through findings of an associated peer review of the service, a headline of good practice in this case was the need to retain staff onsite for this kind of temporary housing scheme.

One of the fundamental weaknesses of the current provision at Seven Hills was the size and design of the accommodation facilities especially for families with children, with significant challenges being experienced for those with young and older dependents.

At the heart of this appraisal is the need to ensure that, whilst safeguarding value for money and best use of local authority assets, provision of temporary accommodation for those in critical housing need is appropriate to household demographic and protects against further deterioration of wellbeing.

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