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Holly Lodge blog

On 17th April 2013, Holly Lodge - a supported living scheme for adults with a learning disability or autism who present with challenging behaviours - officially opened. This unique scheme is innovative in design, incorporating features such as curved internal walls and soft impact finishes to floors and walls.

Track the progress of Holly Lodge month by month and watch how the development came together: Also read about Holly Lodge's award win!

October | November | December | February | March | opening

the finished development

Much to the excitement of mcch and Avenues staff, social care professionals, families and housing professionals, Holly Lodge opened its doors to eager visitors on Wednesday 17th April.

Packed with assistive technologies, this state of the art building includes unique design features that have been chosen to promote the safety of the tenants and to limit damage to the property.

For further information about the design features, please read our handout by clicking here.

Families of the tenants who will soon be moving in cut the ribbon at the opening.

David Holt, Head of Technical Services at mcch (housing development lead for Holly Lodge) demonstrates the finger-print door entry system to each unit.

Door-less handles for kitchen cupboards - open by a magnetic handle.

The sun pipe brings in natural daylight that can help with Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Each unit has three external access cupboards for maintenance purposes. These contain electrics, waster pipes from the kitchen sink and bathroom as well as access to the under-floor heating controls and hot water panels.

The access panels reduce the need to disturb the tenants for general day to day repairs.


Tenants move into their new home beginning of May. Supported by staff from both mcch and Avenues, we hope that tenants will flourish at Holly Lodge.


Holly Lodge Design – the challenges!

Due to the specialist nature of the design, the whole design project team: our housing team, architect, designers and the contractor, encountered challenges from day one. We worked closely with the support teams, families and specialists, asking many questions in order to really understand what needed to be achieved. We met on a regular basis to build up an understanding of the likely triggers, scenarios and behaviours of the prospective tenants so that they could develop a building specification which would ensure that the ultimate design would meet the needs of the known individuals and would aid and enhance how they would be supported and also keep the support team safe. We met with the support teams and families over many months and also visited other schemes to understand what was and wasn't working well in those environments. The we spent hours researching and sourcing materials to ensure they found exactly what they wanted to create the right environment. As the support teams are not "techies" they have also had a steep learning curve understanding some of what is possible from a technical point of view. Ideas have had to be turned into reality, so team work and good communication across the whole project has been vital from the outset.

Work is progressing well

Balance has been a recurring theme throughout the design and build. We wanted to create homes and not environments that were clinical. When we visited some other schemes they often appeared sparse and institutional. We knew that many of the materials that we had to use for practical and safety purposes would not help with this aim, so we counteracted some of this with curved walls, mood lighting and colour which, overall, created a softer and more homely ambiance. We were also mindful about getting the balance right when it came to ‘future-proofing’ the properties. Although we wanted to provide for the individuals known to be moving in, we did not want to create anything too bespoke so that the properties could not be useful to future tenants. One of the ways we have achieved this is by constructing non structural walls which can be moved without affecting the overall construction.

Curved non structural internal walls will help to reduce incidents of self harming and generally soften the environment.

Long term maintenance costs have also been considered all the way through the design and build as we do not want the tenants to have to pay high service charges. Designing with this in mind, such as super insulating the properties, low energy lighting to name but a few, has enabled us to keep these costs to a minimum. To reduce disruption to the tenants when repairs and maintenance are due, most services are accessible from outside. For example, there is external access to kitchen sinks, wcs, baths and wash-hand basins in case of blockages or problems with the supplies. Underfloor heating controls and isolation switches for the electrics are in the external cupboards.

External access to services reduces disruption to tenants

The scheme will achieve Code 3 for sustainable construction (Code is a single national standard to guide industry in the design and construction of sustainable homes. Rating range from 1 -6).

The Secured by Design officer is very interested in the scheme and along with the design team we are working with them as some of the principles are somewhat different to a general needs development. The SBD awards consider the standards of physical security and use of natural surveillance and defensible space and acknowledge high levels of security and safety at awarded sites. Having to balance security with safety for tenants, staff and the local community, is proving to be a challenge for the SBD officer as they too have to understand how the scheme will be run.


Holly Lodge is nearing completion. Here are some photos:




Work on site is progressing well. Here are some photos taken on site during October and November.

The site in November 2012.


Underfloor heating installation with zoned heating controls which will reduce exposed and vulnerable radiators and pipework.    

Curved removable and non structural internal walls are being constructed. Reducing vulnerable corners will help to reduce incidents of self harming and generally soften the environment.

Preparing for specialist windows to be fitted.

The ‘green’ sedum roof, which will help to manage surface water and provide good insulation.

The ‘green’ roof will minimise the impact on the natural environment in this rural part of Kent.


The Local Authority’s Perspective

Kent County Council Families and Social Care is a key partner in the success of Holly Lodge. Troy Jones, Commissioning Officer, explained why the Council is so involved:

Too often, people with challenging behaviour are housed in residential services which are too large to provide individualised support, serve people too far from their families and are too restrictive to provide a good quality life in the home or as part of the local community. There have been many reasons for this but these services seldom produce good outcomes for the people living in them, so in Kent we decided it’s time to do things differently.

We spent a considerable amount of time viewing various sites. One was rejected because it was too rural and would limit people’s ability to access the community – and staff to be able to get to work. Another was too small and would not provide enough outdoor space and another would have necessitated more than one storey. The Holly Lodge site wasn’t ideal but did address many of the issues which ruled out other sites. It was already owned by mcch and ear-marked for sale or redevelopment as the existing property was unfit for use, so this also proved to be an advantage.

Three of the people that will be living at Holly Lodge are moving from services that are no longer fit for purpose or are unable to meet their needs. The nature of their behaviour means that they are very hard on their environment and the housing they are currently living in has become damaged beyond repair. The new flats are being built to a high specification using robust materials in order to make them more sustainable. The two other tenants are currently in expensive out of county placements, moved there because a suitable service wasn’t available in Kent. Having lived hundreds of miles from their families, they will now be able to rebuild these relationships that are so important to anyone, but especially to people who are so vulnerable.

Support provision on the site will be shared between mcch and The Avenues Group. Supporting people with challenging behaviour requires a dedicated and flexible staff team that has good management and supervisory support. We want to ensure that these people are able to benefit from a more mainstream and personalised support approach whilst minimising some of the usual issues which result in service failure such as staff burnout. By sharing the expertise and management from two organisations, working closely with
multi-disciplinary community teams, the Holly Lodge Project aims to ensure that staff receive better support and supervision so that rather than doing things for service users, they will have the confidence to enable the people they support to do things for themselves whenever possible. Shared support also provides an additional safeguard as two independent organisations have daily oversight of the service.

Some of the individuals living at Holly Lodge will need this specialist environment for a long time, however it is anticipated that some will respond to this new approach well enough that they will be able to consider moving to more mainstream housing, making space available for new tenants. In addition, Holly Lodge will become a hub of experienced staff able to provide outreach services. This will be a valuable resource to provide short term support to service users living in their own homes or with family carers in order to manage or prevent a crisis. The goal of the Holly Lodge Project is to increase the independence of the people living there. Assistive technology will give them control over their environment and the opportunity to safely spend time on their own for short periods, if they wish. Research shows that giving people with learning disabilities more control and more personalised support will result in improvements in their behaviour as well as quality of life. This has been the impetus behind the planning for this project and has heavily influenced design of the buildings and the support packages.

Although it is a small scheme, this project is a fine example of how local innovation and working in partnership to do services differently can help make the lives of disabled people better.


Holly Lodge will combine innovative bespoke design, technology and environmentally friendly features to make it one of a kind. Our Housing Team is working in partnership with colleagues in our Support Team, Kent County Council and the Avenues Group to develop a newbuild supported living scheme which will house and support 5 adults who present with behaviours that challenge. Our aim was to create state-of-the-art premises that maximise comfort, security and the personal development of the tenants. Holly Lodge is due to be completed and ready for occupation in January 2013.

Because it is unique, we have already had many enquiries about the design, technology and support arrangements, so we have decided to produce a series of blogs to share our progress and thinking. We will be producing a ‘biography’ of the scheme later in 2013, once the tenants have settled into their new homes, giving more detailed information about the processes and the lessons we have learned.

Holly Lodge is being built on the site of two former single storey bungalows. Each provided accommodation for eight residents plus sleepover facilities for support staff. Thought was given to whether these properties could be extended, reconfigured and modernised to provide more up to date accommodation but the buildings had suffered from subsidence causing structural damage. The need to demolish and build from new has offered opportunities to ensure the development of flexible accommodation which will suit the housing and supports needs of the prospective and future tenants.

Ultimately, driven by the shape of the site and the trees on its boundaries, the scheme has been designed to curve around a central courtyard, which will provide communal space and access between the apartments and staff facilities. A great deal of thought has been given to every design aspect of the site to ensure that it is robust but aesthetically pleasing. Having visited several “challenging behaviour units” we were mindful that without careful thought and planning, environments could look sparse and institutional. Instead we wanted minimal and practical! We also wanted to create an environment which would be conducive to calm behaviour, assist staff to deliver less intrusive support and increase the tenants’ independence and confidence; in some ways could we “design-out” some challenging behaviour?

In future blogs we will look in more detail at the local authority’s perspective and hopes for the scheme, the building design, the assistive technology and how the two support provider organisations will be working successfully together to deliver personalised support to the tenants.  

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