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Community celebrates completion of £15m transformation in Oldham

Published date : 21 October 2013

Residents unveiled a piece of public art they have created to celebrate a £15m development that has provided some of the greenest homes in the country.

Families joined special guests and politicians – including former Shadow Housing Minister Jack Dromey – to mark the completion of St Mary’s in Oldham on Friday.

Contour Homes, part of Symphony Housing Group, first began working with Oldham Council on plans for the 2.2 ha St Mary’s site more than 10 years ago.

Once occupied by back-to-back terraces, they were demolished in the 1970s and replaced with deck-access flats. However, by the late 1990s these had been bulldozed.

With investment including £7.7m from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), the site has been extensively regenerated and now features 93 modern, spacious homes.

Four have been built to Level 6 under the Code for Sustainable Homes, meaning they have a ‘zero carbon rating’ and are packed with features including triple-glazing and A+ rated electrical appliances.

Meanwhile, two properties have Passivhaus status – the fastest-growing energy performance standard in the world. These homes are exceptionally airtight and are fitted with a special ventilation system which means occupants need to pay only around £70 a year in heating costs.

Residents joined Mr Dromey, Oldham East and Saddleworth MP Debbie Abrahams, and other guests to celebrate the scheme’s completion at Friday’s event.

A commemorative stone, featuring a mosaic designed by householders in the summer, was unveiled – the result of just one of a number of projects that has seen Contour Homes work with families at St Mary’s since 2011.

Meanwhile, Justine Hutton, aged 28, who shares her Passivhaus home with partner Tom Flanagan, also 28, and three children, is among residents delighted with the transformation at St Mary’s:

“The house is more than we ever hoped for. We’ve got so much room – it’s big, open and perfect for our family.

“Because the house has special insulation, vents and is air-tight, it is really warm which means we don’t have to put the heating on. It’s early days, because the summer was so good, but in the future it’s going to make a real difference to our bills.

“We’ve got lots of friends around here and all the building work has really improved the area. There’s also a really good sense of community.”

 MP Ms Abrahams praised the development, which she said had brought many benefits to people living at St Mary’s:

“At a time when families are finding it hard to make ends meet, with falling living standards and higher energy bills, it’s great to be able to show Jack Dromey this new housing project.

“It not only benefits greatly the individuals living at St Mary’s, with its focus on sustainable housing, but also regenerates the whole area.”

Other guests included representatives from Oldham Council, including Leader Jim McMahon and Dave Hibbert, Cabinet Member for Housing and Environment; construction company Keepmoat; architects Nicol Thomas; and consultants Arcus.

Contour Homes managing director Judith Winterbourne, who opened the event, said:

“This is not just a fantastic development, it is a new neighborhood with great community spirit.

“It has the benefit of technologies which will reduce the amount of energy required to heat the homes and therefore reduce the outgoings of our tenants and residents.

“The development was only possible because of the partnership approach of Oldham Council, the HCA, Contour Homes, Keepmoat and the community. It is a scheme we are very proud of.”

Deborah McLaughlin, Executive Director for the North West at the HCA, added:

“I’m proud that the HCA has been able to support the regeneration of the St Mary’s neighbourhood.

“It’s fantastic to see how partners have worked to create much-needed homes that have a positive impact on the look and feel of the area, which I am sure will be a great boost for the local community.”

Councillor Dave Hibbert, Cabinet Member for Housing and Environment, added:

“During the building phase, jobs were created in the supply chain and the construction industry so the development has also ensured the local economy benefited. 

“The homes will not only benefit the people living in them but also make a positive impact on the immediate and wider community.”

Contour Homes is continuing to work with residents on a range of activities, including the installation of new seating and paths around a wildflower garden in the centre of the estate. 

Community Investment Officer Shanine Meadowcroft said:

“All the projects we’ve done at St Mary’s since 2011 have been about bringing existing and new residents together to really get the most out of where they live.

“It’s been a brilliant success and there’s more to come. An artist will be working with the community on seating around the wildflower garden, and the focus is ‘heritage’, looking at key dates in the history of St Mary’s and Oldham.”

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