Ravenswood to build for future after land deal

Land sale is part of project to rebuild accommodation and facilities for residents


Norwood has taken a major step towards securing the future of its Ravenswood village for people with learning disabilities by announcing a development partner.

Persimmon — one of the UK’s major house builders — will be acquiring 18 acres of the 116-acre site in Crowthorne, Berkshire, for a development including an element of social housing.

The sale of land is part of an ambitious project to rebuild accommodation and facilities for Ravenswood’s 130 residents.

A meeting will be held with the local council, Wokingham, early next year in advance of a planning application. It is envisioned building work will start during the 2019/20 financial year with completion in 2021.

The village opened in 1953 and “the infrastructure is creaking”, explained Norwood chief executive Elaine Kerr. She pointed out that there were “cohorts of people in their 50s and 60s who have lived there for virtually their whole lives.

“They’ve had happy lives. They like living there. We want to keep them there.”

A new café at the centre of the village would be part of a hub for learning, social activities and celebrations. And the social housing within the Persimmon development “might help us with recruitment”, Ms Kerr added.

The isolated nature of the site has made getting staff difficult — access from the nearest public transport requires walking across a golf course.

Employees, residents and staff have been consulted at every stage and Roger Filer, chair of the Ravenswood Families Association, welcomed the commitment to “vastly improve the accommodation and external environment”. Residents will have a say in the decoration and furnishing of their homes.

The charity has also been consulting with the Care Quality Commission over the plans.

Although the CQC was not generally keen on campus-type facilities, it had been generally supportive, Ms Kerr said.

“It has been a complicated process — more complicated than we anticipated. But we were concerned about minimising disruption to residents during the building. There are a lot of stakeholders.”

Only 35 residents will be affected by the building work and none will have to move off site.

Ravenswood has been running at an “unsustainable” annual deficit of £2 million, largely attributable to dealing with site problems relating to old buildings and utility systems.

With the strain on funding from local authorities, the project would not wipe out the deficit completely. But it would make a huge financial impact, as well as on residents’ lives.

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