The Herald – 11 September 2023
A new housing development built in Irvine for injured veterans has been described as “life-changing” by their families.
The accessibility provided by the homes has allowed the families to live more comfortable lives and taken off many of the pressures that were straining them.
When the phones first rang offering them new homes in North Ayrshire there were tears of happiness and joy. And four months later the residents are still delighted with their specially adapted homes.
Veteran Louis Clegg, aged 25, is one of 13 veterans allocated a home in the McTaggart Construction development for Riverside Scotland. Together with his partner Ellise Forrest, Louis had been waiting four years for accessible housing after he lost the use of his legs following a motorbike accident.
“When we got the call we were ecstatic. What a relief it was to be offered this opportunity and make all our worries disappear. Having a home specifically designed around accessibility has been life-changing,” said Ellise, aged 24.
For Lyn Sargent, 41, partner Gareth Rae, 40 and their five-year-old daughter Sophie who has autism, cerebral palsy and is non-verbal, the move to a two-bedroom bungalow from an upper maisonette has been transformational. When she got the call she was in tears. “Gareth thought I’d received bad news! It still feels like a dream. It really has changed our lives and I’m so grateful to be living in such a lovely area.
“We were on the housing list for three years. Our flat was a nightmare with Sophie’s disabilities. It was damp and I had 30 concrete steps to climb and another 15 stairs inside. Sophie can walk but gets very tired. We were given a wheelchair, but I couldn’t use it through the week as it was too heavy to carry up and down all the steps. I had to wait until Gareth was off at the weekends.
“Sophie was initially assessed by an Occupational Therapist during Covid over video. It took so long to be physically assessed and we just didn’t have the points to qualify for accessible housing. Only after going to my MSP Ruth Maguire and having an OT come to the house were we awarded the points we needed.
“Within a few weeks, we got the call we’d been hoping for. It’s amazing to look out and see Sophie playing in the garden. Her new room is so cosy and she can wander as she pleases, and I don’t worry she’s going to fall on the stairs. We feel 100 times better knowing Sophie’s safe.”
As a young couple facing the challenges of life together the new home has been important for Ellise and Louis’s wellbeing. Ellise said: “We’ve been here four months now and absolutely love it! It’s had a massive impact on our lives and how we feel.
“With Louis suffering a spinal cord injury and being completely paraplegic, he is loving the ability to live day to day and do whatever is in his mind without a worry. He is a typical young man and just wants to be able to get up in the morning without stress and do his own thing. His mood has picked up and he even has a wee hut he can escape to.
“A home like this is so important to allow us to live day to day life and do our own thing. Louis can now cook as the kitchen has pull down units and the wetroom for the shower is massive – you could get two wheelchairs in it!
“Veterans First Point helped us and we couldn’t be more grateful. We count ourselves lucky as we could be still sitting in the same situation we were before.
With their dog Mali the couple go out every day and that often means chats with the neighbours. “It’s a talky street! All the neighbours are great,” added Ellise. “It’s a lovely estate and we feel really lucky to call it our home.”
And the couple had praise for the developers McTaggart Construction: “We can’t fault the house at all. It’s a massive improvement, modern and up to date to meet our needs. Louis loves it. It makes such a difference and we need to build more and give veterans the extra support they need.”
Scotland’s housing minister Paul McLennan MSP has hailed the new housing at Tarryholme, Irvine, saying: “The development is an excellent example of how safe, warm and affordable homes can transform lives. Residents with specific requirements, including veterans, are now living in much needed new accessible homes which has been life-changing.”
Janice Russell, Managing Director of award-winning McTaggart Construction, said: “We firmly believe that housebuilding is a force for good and providing quality affordable homes fit for purpose can change lives and communities for the better.
“It’s heartwarming to see the positive impact it is having on residents and we are delighted this development has been commended by Scotland’s housing minister. Working together we really can make a difference.”
In total Riverside Scotland has delivered 164 new homes at Tarryholme in partnership with Dalry-based McTaggart Construction, after 87 new homes were initially delivered back in 2019. The new homes include a selection of, two, three and four-bed houses, two-bed flats and includes a number of wheelchair-accessible bungalows which offer a selection of adaptations and will positively impact tenants.
The development has also had a significant local impact. During the recently completed second phase 14 local residents worked on the site and seven local apprentices worked with McTaggart Construction or its subcontractors.
The 77 new homes, supported by £6 million of Scottish Government funding, are designed to ensure they remain flexible and adaptable to the changing needs of households over time.
Jim Strang, chair of Riverside Scotland, said: “We are delighted to welcome our new Housing Minister, Paul MacLennan to Tarryholme to see first-hand how Scottish Government grant funding is being used to create high-quality new homes and build high-quality new communities.
“With the backing of Riverside and the Scottish Government we’ve been able to deliver yet another outstanding development in North Ayrshire.
“For the second phase of Tarryholme we’ve proud to have developed 41 bungalows and accessible homes which will remain flexible and adaptable to meet the changing needs of households over time.
“I’d like to wish our new tenants all the best in their new homes. It’s fantastic to see Lyn and Gareth get a home which is suitable for Sophie. And having partnered with Veterans First Point we were committed to ensuring there was provision for veteran households. We exceeded our 10% target, with 17 % of the homes allocated to veterans. Hearing stories like Louis and Ellise’s puts it all into perspective. Building new homes is about more than bricks and mortar – it’s about transforming lives.