When developers publish plans we tend to focus on aspects like the number of storeys, materials used, affordability, energy efficiency – which are all important, but do we take enough time to consider the effect of these buildings on the people who will live or work in them? The developers of residential units are building homes and memories, influencing and shaping lives for generations. As Winston Churchill said, “We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us.”
A new complex will soon start rising up in Surry Street to replace the tired 80’s Mannings. It will be shiny and new, but will it provide better homes for its residents? I lived in the Mannings for a couple of years in the mid 1990s, so how do my experiences compare with what new residents can expect.
One thing that won’t change is the location. I spent most of my childhood in Shoreham, and my wife is Shoreham born and bred. After living in Lancing for the first year of our marriage, away from family, friends and familiar surroundings, moving to the Mannings put us in the heart of Shoreham. It’s difficult to understand the impact of not being able to live in your home town unless you have been through it. It’s an increasing problem for people setting up home for the first time who want to stay in Shoreham; the new Mannings will help address this with its continued affordability, improved variety of accommodation, and almost doubling the number of homes on the site.
“It was like winning the lottery…”
For us, moving from a fixed mobile home to a flat in the Mannings was like winning the lottery – two large bedrooms, a lounge and separate kitchen, large bathroom, and two toilets! A quick coat of paint and the cheapest carpets we could buy – £250 for the whole flat – transformed it into a home. I can’t begin to imagine how excited the residents of the new Mannings will be when they first enter their homes – everything new, with light pouring in through full height windows.
Prior to the Equality Act of 2010, the old Mannings, like most buildings, wasn’t accessible to anyone in a wheel chair above the ground floor – the health centre / library complex in Pond Road is a notable exception. Buildings are now required to be accessible, which in the case of the new Mannings means providing lifts. The new development goes further with seven wheelchair accessible flats planned. It’s a welcome improvement from the old Mannings, when young families had to carry buggies and prams up and down flights of stairs and moving in / out was challenging – I had to carry everything up those stairs, including a cooker and washing machine. Making buildings accessible for minorities is the right thing to do and it benefits everyone.
Well-planned developments can foster a sense of community
Behind the old Mannings was a patch of grass, where on sunny days young families would sit and chat as their children played, young mothers sharing advice and voicing frustrations to sympathetic ears. It fostered a sense of community and helped us and other new residents quickly settle in. Some new developments sacrifice open spaces – grassy patches, even trees – for more units and greater profit. The new Mannings will replace the grass patch with two roof gardens, so extending the footprint of the building whilst also providing more communal space.
Although there will be more flats in the new building, it will offer fewer for rental, the majority being shared ownership. Not everyone can afford shared ownership, or wants it – some need the flexibility short-term renting provides – so it’s disappointing that the number of units for rental is decreasing.
The new Mannings will enhance the area and the lives of its residents, who I’m sure will be as excited as we were to get a place to call home, right in the heart of Shoreham, a community within the community.
Jason Sutherland-Rowe, the author of this article, is a member of the Shoreham Society’s Executive Committee.