CONSTRUCTION of a new generation of accommodation for older people has started in the centre of Chester-le-Street.

Cestria Community Housing, the town’s biggest social landlord, is building 57 homes on the site of Lambton Court sheltered housing complex, on the Garden Farm Estate.

The £6.5m development, called The Elms, will feature apartments and bungalows for rent, or sale on a leasehold or shared-ownership basis.

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It will have facilities for residents and the wider community including a beauty/treatment room, IT suite, internet café, laundry, community allotment and office/community exhibition space.

The Elms has received £1.76m from the Department of Health’s (DoH) Care and Support Specialised Housing Fund.

Cestria says the development responds to the recommendations of the Government’s HAPPI Report, which outlines a healthy and active lifestyle for the over-55s.

All units will be built to comply with a number of design standards and each will have its own patio, balcony area or garden.

Cestria chief executive Paul Fiddaman said: “This is a significant milestone for the association, and to see construction works get underway on what will become a revolutionary development is really exciting.

“The design concept behind The Elms will not only change the general perception of older people’s housing, but also the lifestyle and wellbeing of this demographic in the future.

“Locally, there is a severe shortage of high-quality housing for the over-55s, and The Elms will go some way to meeting that strategic housing need.”

Lee Francis, area director of builders Keepmoat, said: “I am sure The Elms will make a positive difference to people aged 55 and over in the area.”

Resident Jean Laws, 67, was warden of Lawson Court for 24 years and helped perform the ground-breaking ceremony.

She said: “I really appreciate being invited along to start construction on what will become an exciting new development.

“I was sad to see Lawson Court demolished after working and living there for so long but I am looking forward to seeing how development of the Elms progresses over time – so much so that I have even put my name down to be considered to live there.”

Karen Anderson, area manager for the Homes and Communities Agency, said: "The £1.7m investment from the Care and Support Specialised Housing Fund has made a real difference to the quality of life for residents.”

Construction is expected to be completed by next Spring.