For Rita Railton opening the doors to her newly built bungalow, on the site of the former Morpeth Road school, was like stepping back in time.
Not only had the 70-year-old grown-up just down the road from the new development, on the Cowpen Road, but both she and her eldest daughter, Julie, are former pupils of the school.
Rita and and her husband Lee, also 70, are some of the first tenants to move into the Northumberland County Council funded development of 26 bungalows.
She said: “It’s like I’ve come full circle. I grew up just down the road and my first school was on this very spot. In fact the old school railings have been preserved and are now bordering my back garden, which brought back even more memories.”
The couple had spent more than 40 years in a three-bedroom family home on the Cowpen Farm Estate. They applied to rent the bungalow through the county’s Homefinder register and were delighted when they were successful.
Rita added: “We were starting to find a three-bedroom home difficult to manage. The bungalow is going to make things so much easier for us, we are really impressed with it. As time passes and we get older, we will now have a house which will hopefully suit our needs.”
The £2.8m development is part of the council’s Affordable Homes programme and is made up of two-bedroom bungalows, two of which have been built to accommodate wheelchair access.
The bungalows are part of a focus on affordable housing by the council, which has seen more than 300 new homes being built across the county in the last three years.
Northumberland County Councillor Allan Hepple, cabinet member for housing said: “The lack of affordable housing is one of the biggest issues facing people in Northumberland and the council has placed a strong emphasis on building new affordable homes.
““However, as a result of the Government demanding all local councils to cut their housing rents by 1% for the next four years, it is unlikely we will see council homes built to this scale for some time.
“The council will continue to work with other landowners and developers such as Arch Group, to look at innovative ways of meeting the increasing housing demand in the county.
“It’s fantastic to see the tenants moving into their new homes, which are helping local people, such as the Railtons, stay in the communities they know and love.”
The homes have been built by Esh Property Services to Lifetime Homes Standard, and include direct access ‘en suite’ facilities and provision for future hoists as well as level access showers. There are also dementia friendly elements such as glass fronted kitchen cabinets.
Last year the council completed 18 properties in Dandsfield Square, Amble, and this year it has completed 16 properties in Embleton and 20 in Shilbottle creating 84 new affordable homes for rent in north Northumberland.
Together with developments from Arch Homes the council has already reached its target of building 1,000 affordable homes in the county.