Scotland’s first disability cohousing community planned for Edinburgh

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Proposals to build Scotland’s first cohousing community for people with disabilities are set to be handed over to planners in the new year.

Tiphereth, an independent charity that supports adults with learning disabilities and complex needs including autism, downs syndrome and epilepsy, is gearing up to table the plans for a disused car park at the former Torphin Hill Golf Club on the edge of the Pentlands.

Charity Tiphereth plans to build a unique 'cohousing' community at Torphin for people with disabilities. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Charity Tiphereth plans to build a unique 'cohousing' community at Torphin for people with disabilities. Picture: Ian Rutherford

In May 2017, the charity was granted planning permission to transform the former golf clubhouse at Torphin Hill into residential care accommodation – along with additional parking, three small extensions and workshops.

If approved by the city council, the cohousing terrace would see those living in the homes work to help other residents as volunteers as part of their tenancy agreement. Many of the tenants will be closely involved with Tiphereth or may receive day care within the existing facility.

The charity held a public consultation for the cohousing vision, including a drop-in session at Hoyland House which attracted around 60 people. Following the session, 95 per cent of people said they supported appropriate care in the community facilities for those with learning disabilities, with 94 per cent specifically supporting the Tiphereth proposals.

Bruce Bennet, chief executive of Tiphereth, said: “This is the first development of its kind in Scotland and we are delighted with such a positive response from the local community and we will be submitting a planning application early in the new year. We’d like to thank everyone who made the effort to take part and make the consultation such a success.

“We recognise that the challenges facing people with learning disabilities are just as unique as the individuals themselves and we work with our members and families to develop creative services that provide meaning and stability in people’s lives.”

Tiphereth is set to bring forward the plans in response to what it perceives as a lack of quality affordable homes for people with learning disabilities. The charity also hopes the new community, if approved, will help address feelings of loneliness and isolation that disabled people and those with complex needs can experience. Around 4,500 of the city council’s 20,000 new affordable homes that are set to be built will be integrated with health and social care services to be used by older people and those with “complex physical and health needs”.

If given the thumbs up by planners, the charity will build a terrace of upper and lower apartments with two larger three-bedroom houses at either end and a community room. The 13 units will be let to individuals of all ages.

Some with learning disabilities and other support needs will be integrated with families and others to ensure they are looked after and supported. Those living in the cohousing will work to help other residents as volunteers as part of their tenancy agreement.

The charity also hopes the cohousing project will create homes that “provide a stable foundation for people to lead better lives”. Tiphereth currently has small full-time care facilities nearby the proposed cohousing scheme, and there is a “huge unmet need within the community for additional living accommodation”.

The charity runs three residential care homes and a range of day services and social enterprise projects which support adults with learning disabilities and autism. In the three current houses, 12 residents live with families in shared living settings with “vocational house parents”, who are the registered care home managers. Additionally, ten residents are supported more independently by Tiphereth staff in three flats and one house.