The first of ten families have moved into the newly refurbished hobby rooms on the iconic Grade II* listed Byker Estate – just in time for Christmas.

Lafai Camara was handed the keys to her new home at Raby Way on Friday morning (15 December) by Rt. Hon Nick Brown MP and officers from Byker Community Trust (BCT) housing association, who owns the iconic Byker Wall Estate.

Work commenced earlier this year on the £750K first phase to convert ten former disused hobby rooms into much-needed one and two-bedroom homes, of which two have been adapted for disabled access.

When architect Ralph Erskine designed and built the Byker Estate between 1969 and 1983, the hobby rooms that are interspersed around the Estate were designed as places where social enterprise and community activities could take place.

BCT initially carried out a full feasibility study of 88 hobby rooms to establish their condition and identify options to make best use of the buildings to meet the needs of the local community.

Today, many hobby rooms remain unused and the demand for new homes is increasing across the City. BCT agreed to invest further into the Estate by converting these buildings into affordable modern new homes for local people and families.

Erskine designed the hobby rooms to be different so each new property has been individually designed by JDDK Architects, with no two homes the same, however BCT has provided the same luxury standards and finishing’s to every property.

Lafai Camara, 46, said: “I am over the moon to receive the keys to my new home, particularly as it is just before Christmas. I’m looking forward to living in Byker and on this iconic Estate so close to Newcastle City Centre.”

Rt. Hon Nick Brown MP, said: “I welcome this reinvestment in the Byker Estate creating extra homes at affordable rents. I wish the housing programme every success.”

Jill Haley, Chief Executive of BCT, said: “Byker has just recently been voted the greatest neighbourhood in the UK and Ireland and is once again becoming a popular place to live and work. It’s not hard to see why when you think about how close it is to the City Centre and is surrounded by cultural activity next to a network of transport and amenities.

“BCT is helping to meet the demand for affordable new homes across the City by refurbishing these disused hobby rooms and creating individually designed modern new homes. The new homes are unique dwellings upholding the trademark Erskine design.

“We undertook a detailed feasibility study to explore their current condition and potential future use and agreed that some could create modern new homes. This is another exciting project for BCT and complements the other multi-million pound investment projects, which we have already delivered on the Estate since we were established in 2012.

“We have 88 hobby rooms in total which are spread across the Estate and were originally designed to fit around the local community that existed here in Byker back in the 1960’s.  Some rooms are still used for their original purpose and we will continue to promote the use of other rooms in the same way. We have some exciting new projects coming up in Byker during the next year.”

The first phase of refurbishment works was carried out by Esh Property Services, part of the Esh Group construction company.