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Devon housing association’s latest venture ‘a gift to the community’

A small independent housing association in South West England ended 2021 on a high, with completion and occupation of 11 new ‘Stepping Stone’ apartments for people with learning difficulties at Dartington in South Devon.

Through their new purpose-built apartments South Devon Rural Housing Association (SDR) are giving some residents their very first taste of independent living.

The Elmhirst Court apartments on land owned and managed by SDR were built in collaboration with Devon County Council and South Hams District Council, while the project was part-funded with £400,000 from Homes England.

Councillor Judy Pearce, Leader of South Hams District Council and Lead Member for Housing, said:

“I’m so proud we’ve been a part of this much needed project. Together we’ve made sure more local people can access a safe and comfortable home that truly meets their individual needs without having to move far from friends and family”.

SDR Chief Executive Christine Candlish added:

“This latest development symbolises the broad spectrum of ages and needs that South Devon Rural aims to cater for going forward.

“I’m delighted that all 11 apartments are now occupied. It’s the human element that makes any building come alive and Elmhirst Court is now starting to fulfil its potential”.

The Case Study below shows how one of the first people to sign up for the new apartments is already finding the apartments offer life-changing opportunities and why Christine Candlish, SDR’s Chief Executive, says it exemplifies “why we come to work every day”.


Able Sharp takes a giant stride towards more independent living

Captions (from left to right):

  • Getting mobile. Able on his Boma all-terrain wheelchair with support worker Cassie and family dog Merry.
  • Exterior of the 11 new apartments at Elmhirst Court, Dartington.
  • Able Sharp in the living area of his new apartment with fiancée Leanne.

Able Sharp is aptly named for a young man determined to overcome mobility issues and learning difficulties so he can get a taste of more independent living.

He recently became one of the first residents of SDR’s new ‘stepping stone’ apartments at Elmhirst Court, Dartington.

Able, aged 24, contracted meningitis as a toddler and the infection severely restricted his mobility and ability to learn. He uses an electric wheelchair, plus other mobility aids, and since childhood has lived with his mother, Alex, in another SDR property at nearby Bramble Close.

Alex takes up the story:

“As a young child Able used to go past the Brimhay site on his way to nursery school. Little did we know that one day it would be the site of his new home and the key to a much more independent lifestyle. When we heard about the new apartments, Able was one of the first to apply.

“It’s great that he’s been able to find a home where he can have his own space, yet within the friendly community where he grew up and where he knows so many people. He loves his new flat, which has a spare room for a support worker to sleep in if they need to stay overnight. He’s met other residents and has several new friends already”.


Since September, when Able moved in, Alex has been working with Devon County Council to make changes to the ground floor flat that will improve accessibility and ease some of the everyday tasks like washing, cooking and personal hygiene.

She said Able is proud of his new apartment, where he’s comfortable and can spend quality time with his fiancée Leanne, who is the “love of his life”. The couple, who met at South Devon College, are already cooking meals together and planning outings in Able’s mobility car.

Alex added:

“Able already feels completely at home in his new flat. Each day, with the help of his fantastic support workers, he's gaining the skills that will ensure he has a healthy, independent future. It's what every parent hopes for and I can begin to step back, confident that he's thriving. I couldn't wish for a safer, more friendly and supportive environment for Able to live in the heart of the village we both love”.

Asked to sum up her view of the 11 new apartments at Elmhirst Court, Alex said:

“It’s a real gift to the community”.


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