Strong communities - necessary for the homes of the future

That was the takeaway message from this year’s South West Residents’ Design Conference, held at our Plumer House headquarters.

The annual conference is a chance for residents to give feedback on the design and layout of new homes and hear what housing associations are up to.

During an interactive session led by Plymouth University architecture students, delegates – made up of social housing tenants from across the region – split up into groups to discuss what they thought was important in a new home. Residents from Teign, LiveWest, Ocean, Coastline and PCH attended.

Residents said homes needed to ‘extend beyond four walls’ to create a community while there was also support for more communal outdoor areas. 

PCH Head of Development Andrew Lawrie also presented feedback from last year’s Resident Satisfaction Survey, which is sent to all residents moving into one of our new-build homes.

Feeling safe was the most important feature for respondents while size and storage space was also a priority.

Honicknowle resident Colin Lincoln, a LiveWest tenant, explained why he attended the event. He said: “I used to live in Devonport and got involved there with the regeneration. I heard about this event on Facebook and thought I would get engaged again. It’s important that residents can say what they think.”

The day also included a talk by social historian John Boughton, author of Municipal Dreams: The Rise and Fall of Council Housing.

He explained the origins of social housing, from the days of the late 1800s when it was seen as the answer to slums and ill health in industrial areas.

He explained how during the post-war years, ‘housing visitors’ – usually single women – used to visit estates to inspect residents’ homes.

They would go through every room to check tenants had cleaned the house thoroughly and that gardens were well tended.

The 1970s saw the move to the needs-based allocations we have today.

The conference also heard from Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue’s Brian Harvey who spoke about fire safety in tower blocks.

Although much of the focus in recent years has of course been on Grenfell Tower, he said many blocks around the world had suffered similar fires over the years.

PCH Board Member Debbie Roche, who chaired the conference, said: “It’s been an incredible day. The topics have been contemporary yet with an historical feel. People will be leaving here today much better informed.”