• 02 August 2021
  • News,

A lifechanging centre to support people living with disabilities in Sunderland has topped out, with just months to go until it opens its doors.

A new Northeast Disabilities Resource Centre (NDRC) – which is being developed by Sunderland City Council – is heading closer to completion, with construction partner Tolent having topped out, with a roof now covering the £1.4m space.

The new centre will replace the charity’s current home, which has become tired and restrictive after years of use.  The new facility, which is expected to be ready by late autumn, has been purpose-built and includes space for a range of activities that have been difficult to deliver from its current centre.

The centre will stand among a new community that is taking shape at Cork Street, in Hendon.  The development represented the council’s first foray into council-house construction for 40 years when work started in October 2020, and will deliver 17 new bungalows, 16 of which will be specially-adapted to provide homes for people with physical disabilities, and one for general needs.

It is expected that some of the people who use NDRC, which is a dedicated centre for people with a range of physical and learning disabilities, will apply to live in the bungalows, providing them with an accessible home that is fit to meet their needs. 

Stuart Johnson, general manager at NDRC, said: “We’re thrilled to see the centre top out, as we head closer to moving in. 

“The services we offer are lifechanging already but being able to support people from a dedicated space that will more than double our capacity is just tremendous.  It’s like the final pieces of the jigsaw are slotting into place with the new centre and adapted homes too.”

He added: “The people we support are extended family to me, and this is just what I’d want for my own family, so it’s what I want for them.  They deserve to be supported to access the same opportunities as anyone else, and to enjoy activities on their doorstep that allow them to live happy, fulfilled lives.  It’s a massive moment for us all at NDRC.”

The centre is used by people with a range of disabilities, primarily cerebral palsy, as well as learning difficulties and related difficulties and typically more than 20 people make use of its services every day.  Sunderland City Council believes the centre will help create a community centred around NDRC, ensuring people who want to live independently can do so with support on their doorstep.

Councillor Kevin Johnston, dynamic city cabinet member, said: “Our Housing Delivery and Investment Plan (HDIP) set out plans to develop new homes for people who need more accessible accommodation, and wrapping this around a centre that is dedicated to supporting them is something that will make a big difference. 

“NDRC does so much good work and seeing the charity’s new centre top out is a brilliant moment on our journey towards creating a new community in Hendon that will support some of our more vulnerable residents.”

The centre is expected to be completed later this year, and – when it opens its doors – NDRC hopes to be able to extend support beyond its current 8:30am to 4:30pm opening hours. 

The new centre has been constructed by Tolent, who have been engaged to build the homes at Cork Street too. 

Ian Avis, regional construction manager for Tolent, said: "The project team are doing a fantastic job in delivering this much needed high-quality facility and surrounding housing on this site. We know how much benefit the new centre will bring to the community, and the council have really pushed the boundaries in terms of the specification and design of the unit, incorporating aspects like assistive technology and aids and adaptations to ensure the centre can consistently deliver for current and future tenants.

"Now that the building is water-tight, we've moved inside to start forming the various spaces of the two-storey building which includes treatment rooms, member areas, drama and music space and office and staff facilities."

Cork Street is one of a number of schemes that the council is leading as part of a programme that will deliver 117 new build bungalows across the city, as well as 95 new homes – providing supported accommodation - and the conversion of 362 empty properties, that will be brought back into use over the next five years