In the mid 1990s nearly three quarters of the directly let properties in the village of Newton St. Loe were occupied by retirees and of these two thirds were living on their own. The old properties often had awkward stairs and in some the bathrooms were not easily accessible. Many of the tenants had spent most of their lives in the village and wanted to remain in their cottages rather than moving to purpose built council accommodation.
In 1995 the Duchy carried out a local consultation exercise which indicated overwhelming support for some single storey manageable homes in the village so that the older generation could stay as long as they were able to.
Virtually no new housing had been built in the village for 100 years, so site selection was dealt with sensitively. Various sites were short listed for consideration and consultation with villagers before taking the preferences to the planning authority. The favoured site was outside the development boundary of the village in a quiet location with southerly views out across the parkland. Consent was granted under the “exceptions” basis that there was a demonstrable local need that could not easily be answered elsewhere.
Design inspiration came from the nearby Lodge at Newton Park with its attractive chimneys, beaver tail roof tiles and stone mullioned windows. The accommodation comprised a ground floor of 56 square metres including a living room, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom with gas fired central heating. However, each cottage also had a proper staircase in the hall leading to an extra 41 square metres in the roof space divided into two rooms overlooking the rear gardens. This meant that tenants who were still able to use stairs could have a bedroom on the first floor or at have somewhere for visiting relatives to stay with plenty of space for storage.
Using local builders, Shellard Winter & Co, the Bath architects Watson Bertram & Fell completed the four cottage terrace in 2002 and in the autumn The Prince of Wales officially opened them, just a couple of weeks before the first tenants took possession.
The planning conditions ensured that that the new occupiers were over 60 years of age and were previously tenants of the Duchy on the Newton Park Estate. This meant that there were immediately four new vacancies in the village which, after works of refurbishment, were available to let to younger generations.
The development was not only a resounding success with local residents but it was also recognised by Bath & North East Somerset Council Building Control who, in January 2003 presented the scheme with a Design Quality Award and a Building Quality Award.