Housing minister hears how families are having lives transformed by new accessible homes

Scottish Housing Minister, Paul McLennan MSP, visited Tarryholme, Irvine to celebrate the completion of the second phase of Riverside Scotland’s latest development.

The 77 new homes were supported by £6 million Scottish Government grant funding and have been built to Housing for Varying Needs Standards, to ensure that they remain flexible and adaptable to meet the changing needs of households over time.

Mr McLennan was invited to meet with military veteran Louis Clegg, 25 living in an adapted home after he lost the use of his legs in a motorbike accident.

Louis and his partner Ellise Forrest, 24, had been waiting four and a half years for accessible housing after Lewis had a motorbike accident on 22 December 2015.

Now Louis, a former soldier in 2nd Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Scotland (2 SCOTS), is one of 13 veterans allocated a new home by Riverside Scotland on their new development in Tarryholme, where more than 60% of homes have been built to suit wheelchair users and people with additional mobility needs.

The couple live in a two-bedroom bungalow with their two-year-old dog, a Lhasa Apso, named Mali.

Ellise said: “We waited so long on accessible housing and what a relief it was to be offered this opportunity and make all our worries disappear. With Louis suffering a spinal cord injury and being complete paraplegic, he is loving the ability to live day to day and do whatever is in his mind without a worry.

“When we got the call from Riverside Scotland to say we were being offered a new bungalow we were ecstatic! We only lived five minutes away so drove up to see the development and try and guess which house was ours.  We got to choose between two and Louis decided on the one with the bigger garden, which our dog adores.

“Veterans First Point helped us with our situation, and we couldn’t be more grateful for them giving Louis’s name for a veteran’s home! We count ourselves lucky as we could be still sitting in the same situation we were beforehand!

“We’ve been here three months now and absolutely love it!  It was a bit like 60 minute makeover. We got our keys and were moved in a couple of days later – we couldn’t wait! Having a home specifically designed around accessibility has been lifechanging for us. And we really have the best neighbours.  It’s a lovely estate and we feel really lucky to call it our home.”

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 had a significant local impact. During the recently completed second phase 14 local residents have worked on the site and seven local apprentices have worked with McTaggart Construction or its sub-contractors.

Riverside Scotland has completed 277 affordable homes across Ayrshire in the past three years with backing of Riverside Group, including Scotland’s largest affordable modular housing development at Dundonald which delivered 63 new homes, as well as a further 50 new homes in Monkton.

Also settling into their new home is Lyn Sargent, 41, partner Gareth Rae, 40 and daughter Sophie who turns five this week.

The family moved into to a new two-bedroom bungalow in Tarryholme from an upper maisonette.

For Sophie, who has autism, cerebral palsy and is non-verbal the move has been life changing.

Lyn said: “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 got given a wheelchair, but I couldn’t use it through the week myself 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 a video call. It took so long for her 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 to move.

“Within a few weeks we got the call we’d been hoping for. I was crying and Gareth initially thought I’d received bad news. It still feels like a dream! It’s amazing to look out the back door and see Sophie playing in the garden with her toys. She’s been enjoying the paddling pool in the good weather. She loves her new room. It’s so cosy and she can wander from room to room as she pleases, and I don’t worry she’s going to fall on the stairs.

“Going out is so easy now. I just grab the wheelchair out the hall cupboard and I’m straight out the door – no hassle. We feel 100 times better knowing Sophie’s safe and everything’s on the level. It really has changed our lives and I’m so grateful to be living in such a lovely area.”

The Housing Minister chose to visit Tarryholme as part of his Summer Tour to find out more about the new homes and the Housing for Varying Needs Standards.

He said: “The Tarryholme housing 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.

“These 77 affordable new homes were supported by £6 million Scottish Government funding, contributing to our commitment to deliver 110,000 affordable homes across Scotland by 2032. At least 70% of these will be for social rent and 10% will be in remote, rural and island communities.”

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.”