We are very pleased to announce that we have just completed the purchase of three flats in Northfield Waye from Victory Housing Trust. This has taken a long time, but we had to be sure that we had established the full story of the fire that affected two of them. Believe it or not, the source of the fire was a mobile phone charger! This underlines the importance of never leaving anything electric switched on when you go out.
Now we have two newly refurbished flats (and one more, also in good condition), nearly ready for their new tenants. We will soon be carrying out fire safety reviews, and checking all our homes again to make sure they are safe.
At HfW, we have always tried to do our best to take measures to prevent and minimise the risk of fire. We use a professional fire safety advisor to check our properties. We have installed smoke and C02 alarms, and we fit fire doors, fire extinguishers and fire blankets. We carry out annual checks to try to ensure that everything is working as it should, as well as regular gas and boiler checks, and that all fire exits are clear of rubbish. However we do rely on our tenants to spot and tell us about any problems between annual checks. We want people to be aware of the risk of fire, to take sensible precautions and to think about what they would do if it happened to them. This applies to everybody, not just to our tenants and we are always looking for extra ways of keeping people safe.
Here are our top safety tips:
Make a fire action plan and practise it, so everyone in your home knows how to escape and raise the alarm
Fit smoke alarms on each level in your home.
Make sure they work by testing your smoke alarm regularly, by pushing the test button.
Make everyone familiar with the best way out of the building
Make sure everyone can easily find door and window keys.
Think about a room you can go to where you can be seen
from outside, and rescued if necessary.
Get into the habit of closing all doors at night.
Do not block access roads to your building.
Think how you and each person in your home will escape.
Keep a safety torch where it’s most needed
Make sure you know where gas, electricity and water isolation taps are
Make sure those taps are lubricated and easy to turn off
Get your washing machine and dishwasher and other appliances serviced regularly
Make sure the water outlets are firmly secured in the exit pipes to prevent flooding
Unplug kettles and other small appliances when you are away
Take care in the kitchen! Cooking accidents account for 59% of fires in the home
When grilling; frying, or cooking with hot oil, only use temperature controlled deep fat fryers.
Think twice about using candles - battery candles are safer), and never leave lit candles unattended, especially when there are children about
Don’t smoke, or use electronic cigarettes indoors - if faulty they can cause a fire
Keep matches and lighters away from children
Keep clothing away from heating and cooking appliances
Take special care when you are tired or have been drinking. Half of all deaths in domestic fires happen between 10pm and 8am
Keep all doors and exits clear
Don’t try to use fire extinguishers if the fire is already well advanced
Use your kitchen fire blanket if the fire is small and contained
In the event of fire in your home - alert everyone
Immediately leave your home and go outside to a safe area, shutting the doors behind you
Call 999, use a mobile phone or a phone box, give the address including the number of your home and tell them exactly where the fire is
Gather together in a safe place away from the building
Have a head count
Don’t go back in. Don’t go back in. Not for anything!
Many thanks for trying to stay safe!
Empty homes and derelict buildings inflame public opinion when there is so much pressure on the availability of affordable homes. Some well-known local people drew our attention to the overgrown and neglected units at Maryland with a graphic picture on social media. This is the building many of us would recall as ‘the old jam factory’ run by Cartwright and Butler. To see what was a fairly new building run to ruin is a terrible waste, and an eye sore. However this has led to good discussion about empty social housing in Northfield and all the empty homes that are only available for holiday lets. At Homes for Wells we really support anything we can all do to help our local people live in the town. Affordable homes for local people are sorely needed.
First, the good news! By the time the February “Quay” is distributed, three homes in Northfield Waye will have new tenants moving in. These are properties which Victory are selling to Homes for Wells, and not on the open market. But it is fair to say that it’s taken months longer than we expected. The reason is that the legal requirements are much more complex than a few years ago, including those faced by the board of Homes for Wells. We have to ensure there are no surprises in future years, because our finances are limited and we must be prudent in our spending. Our Board members give their time and skills unpaid – in some cases, a great many hours – and we are grateful for their contribution of time and care. It keeps our costs down and makes it possible to spread our budget further to provide more affordable homes. We are doing our best to buy any former Council houses and flats in Wells, which come on the market to offer to local people. But unfortunately we don’t have the funds to buy all those which become available. With our current purchase of three flats, if we could have afforded it, we could’ve stretched this to two more flats which were on the market at the same time, but we simply didn’t have the funds to buy all five. It was very frustrating to have to limit ourselves to three flats.Thanks to Annie and team and all of their efforts, we achieve a lot, but we rely heavily on donations and grants. This is really important, because once the homes are lost to our Wells social housing stock, they are very hard to replace. According to the press about 40% of right to buy homes end up in the hands of private landlords, and this at a time when the housing situation nationally is in crisis.
Now, returning to the obstacles to development at Maryland, Jennifer’s example is a perfect “brownfield” site. It needs to be brought into use to provide housing, or if that is not possible, jobs for local people. Once it was our station, with trains to take you to Norwich in as little as 42 minutes. Holidaymakers could come to Wells without a car. If only…..! But the station platforms were demolished and industrial units put in their place. “Brownfield” means land that was previously built on. It is better for the environment to use this instead of farmland. Maryland is zoned for industrial use, but surely the margins of the zone could be changed where there is no longer enough industry or employment? We have raised this with the Planners, but their hands are tied by flood defence issues. No homes may be built where there is a risk of flooding. This rule is unlikely ever to change. And yet….there are many places along the coast where living accommodation is built on the first floor of a quayside or waterfront, and the ground floor is allocated to parking only.
Homes for Wells will continue to advocate this solution and hope it will be included in the “Neighbourhood Plan”. And our thanks to Jennifer and others for highlighting our cause – all ideas gratefully received!
Are you thinking of making a gift or donation this Christmas?
Homes for Wells continues to grow and is always looking for new properties. To do this we rely greatly on generous donations to help us to buy, refurbish and provide secure homes for local families. As part of our fundraising, each year we invite generous people to make a donation to help out those in our local area who have no home of their own.
Perhaps you are in receipt of a winter fuel allowance, which you feel you might like to contribute. Or are you perhaps a second or holiday home owner and would like to donate, say, one week’s rent?
With your donation you know you are helping someone local, in real need of a home this Christmas, because apart from our two hard-working administrators, everyone else in Homes for Wells is an unpaid volunteer. Donations go towards acquiring and maintaining our homes.
And we’ve been very successful – we are delighted to note that several of our early tenants, having had a few years of paying affordable rent whilst they save for a deposit, have moved on to buy their own first family homes, freeing up our homes for new tenants to start on that process. These new local home owners have been able to do this because we have provided the stepping stones for them to move into more permanent housing. I’m sure there are lots of parents who wish their own children had the opportunity, to step onto the path to home ownership in this way.
You can see our newest tenants, Sam and Kathleen and family, who have moved into our most recently acquired property pictured below and we are delighted to welcome them. With your help, we are also buying three new flats in Wells, but we really need funds to renovate them to the standard we require. You can donate by cheque or standing order, just ring the number below, send us an email, or pop your donation in the post. It would be greatly appreciated.
Our efforts and those of similar associations have a real impact, we learn from the National Housing Federation (NHF) that the government has promised a new government Social Housing Green Paper. We all look forward to the country having a proper conversation about the importance of social housing in ending the housing crisis, which seems to expand with every year that passes..
We also read in the national press, of the awful homelessness problems faced by people moved onto Universal Credit, including many working people on low incomes. We are also reminded by David Orr of the National Housing Federation (NHF), that amongst the many reasons why housing associations are essential, is that discrimination against tenants who receive housing benefit is now much more common in the private rental sector. This is a shame and shows that social housing associations, many of which, are Community lead not for profit organisations are vital in improving the housing situation. Homes for Wells main priority is to provide affordable homes for key workers with local family connections.
With Christmas fast approaching we should like to wish every one of our Wells’ residents, and our own tenants and donors a very Happy and Healthy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous New Year. Despite all of the political uncertainties, here in Wells we have a wonderful community spirit, a beautiful environment, and a wealth of talented residents, some of whom have joined our board, and are already sharing their expertise with us. So let us enjoy Christmas, focus on our homes, our beloved families and friends, and on making life better for those in our community who are struggling in one way or another. For those who have decided to contribute – our heartfelt thanks!
This month we extend a welcome to our 5 new board members. Also, our new administrator, Lotte, who joined us in August. I give some background for each:
Eleanor Crisp, studied languages at University and lived in Russia for three years, returning to London where she worked in Investment Banking for over sixteen years in operations, project and product management, relationship management and trading. On changing careers, she retrained as a chef, became a skilled cheesemonger and baker, but also acted as a regular food judge and writer. Having moved Wells in recent years, she first became involved in the community by becoming Treasurer of the Wells Coastal Communities Team, whose goals closely align with those of Homes for Wells. She will be part of our finance committee and also look into funding and grant opportunities.
Chrissie Farley retired as principal of an inner-city college of further and continuing education in 2007 and has a wealth of experience of senior leadership. Since she retired to North Norfolk, Chrissie has continued to work in the public, voluntary and community sectors, offering professional development, coaching and mentoring. After moving to Wells she was keen to continue to use her expertise to help HFW with governance and fundraising. She believes that it is really important to develop homes for local people and increase affordable housing stock to meet the needs of a changing population.
Michael Martin had an early career as an officer in Royal Navy submarines, and subsequently trained with Procter & Gamble in sales and marketing. Michael progressed through various management roles to become managing director of a housing construction company, and later moved on to develop the market for light steel frame houses. He was involved in the first major residential development in the UK for housing associations, using modular, sustainable housing systems. He developed a £60,000 house through English Partnerships and for the Blair government. He then moved into managing large multi million pound projects for many housing associations.
Jane Berwick is a local person and a professional estate administrator with extensive experience managing many aspects, including agricultural and residential properties, working with tenants, recruitment of employees and HR responsibilities. She also is used to setting up and developing IT and telephony systems, and providing personal assistance, and support to senior staff. She is currently Land and Property Manager at Holkham Estate.
Pippa Cooke grew up in and around Wells and bought her first home here in 2016 under a local housing scheme. Whilst studying for her Mathematics degree at the University of Portsmouth, Pippa returned home in the holidays to work at Pinewoods Holiday Park. Following University, Pippa joined IBM under their graduate scheme and now with 5 years experience she is currently an Associate Project Manager for the company. Alongside her employment she is also studying for a Masters degree in Management at Durham University. Pippa has acquired many business, communication, technical and project management skills and will be supporting Homes for Wells with IT.
We look forward to getting to know our new board members better, and to working with them for the benefit of Homes for Wells.
I have already mentioned our new administrator, Lotte Wynder, who has joined our very capable financial administrator Kady Riches in the Homes for Wells office. Lotte has fulfilled many senior administrator roles, with National Australian bank, in schools and theatre. She continues as stage manager and front of house manager with the Tower Theatre Company. Lotte also managed a shop and post office before moving to Norfolk, and now lives in Binham with her family.
Kady has expanded her role to cover further significant financial areas. She also, with Lotte, shares the important responsibility for looking after our tenants. Just a reminder that our office is open from nine till three each Tuesday and Thursday.
In other news, we learn from the National Housing Federation (NHF) that the government is changing oversight of housing associations by introducing a new Regulator. We also await a new government Social Housing Green Paper. We are reminded by David Orr, chief executive of the NHF, that amongst the many reasons why housing associations are essential, is that discrimination against tenants who receive housing benefit is now common in the private rental sector. Invariably, social housing associations, members of the NHF, are not for profit organisations, providing benefit for their local communities. We all look forward to the country having a proper conversation about the role and importance of social housing in ending the housing crisis. With our new team members above, we are confident that we will face future opportunities and changes with renewed confidence, and continue to develop and expand our housing stock.
Homes for Wells Limited - A registered society under The Cooperative and Community Benefits Societies Act 2014
(registered number IP30389R)