January 25, 2006. ic Birmingham.co.uk - Birmingham,UK.
A charity is set to transform its run down homes and facilities into a new £13 million sheltered housing and community scheme for blind people in the Black Country.
Beacon Centre for the Blind - which has provided residential, day care and outreach facilities to visually impaired people since 1875 - hopes to start work on the three-year project later this year, once planning permission is granted.
Since 1963 it has operated eight buildings scattered around a seven-acre site in Sedgley, Dudley, which over the years have fallen into disrepair.
Without significant investment to substantially upgrade facilities to meet new national minimum care standards, the centre would face closure.
The new homes will be funded in partnership with Bromford Housing Association, while other on-site facilities will be funded through a capital fundraising appeal and the sale or lease of part of the charity's site.
The development will include 71 flats purpose-built with blind and visually impaired residents in mind, and new facilities will include a hairdresser's salon, a corner shop, an IT training suite and a gym.
Existing therapy and treatment rooms, a sensory garden, restaurant and coffee bar will also be rehoused in new buildings.
Ian Ferguson, the charity's chief executive, said:"The number of people living with blindness or visual difficulties in the Black Country is set to increase by 35 per cent over the next 15 years, from 13,500 to 18,255.
"Our old warehouse buildings were becoming too costly to heat and the site had become reminiscent of an old Army camp. We need to give our staff, service users and volunteers a much better environment."
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