The first Flat Spaces bungalow should be in place later this year beside a steam railway in the middle of the Hampshire countryside – the foundations were laid this week on a plot next to six existing holiday rental properties in Ropley – with doors due to open next spring.
This should be followed by further Flat Spaces developments in Surrey, Kent and the Scottish borders.
Every one of the accessible three-bedroom properties will be identical on the inside and will be larger and more spacious than most other holiday homes, and will be built in a factory before being installed as a prefabricated building.
Because each building will be identical inside, the equipment – such as toilets, light switches, hoists, ovens and kettles – will all be in the same place in each location.
The accommodation will feature a front door wide enough for two wheelchairs to pass through at the same time, a wet room with a Clos-o-Mat toilet, electric beds and a carer call system in one bedroom, a ceiling hoist track in two of the bedrooms and the wet-room, and an accessible, open plan kitchen and dining-room featuring “rise and fall” dining table and work top.
The living space, both inside and outside the building, will be completely flat.
The idea came from Tom Yendell, director of Flat Spaces, a disabled artist who had always wanted to design his own home.
He and his wife Lucy eventually drew up plans for a bungalow, which they moved into in 2012, and the success of their own domestic project convinced Yendell that it would be possible to replicate the design of an accessible holiday cottage over and over again, ordering the same prefabricated building from the same factory every time.
They are funding the first property themselves, and are setting up a charity to provide funds for further Flat Spaces, each of which will cost about £250,000.
Last week, they visited the former Tory minister Lord Tebbit and his disabled wife Margaret at their home in Suffolk to discuss the project. Yendell said they were “very supportive”.
He hopes that once disabled holiday-makers have seen the quality and accessibility of the accommodation, they will try other Flat Spaces in other parts of the country, or even – eventually – abroad.
Yendell said: “There is nothing else like it. There are other accessible holiday cottages, but they don’t have all the equipment that we have, or the big space.
“At the moment, if you go online and look for an accessible holiday cottage there are cottages out there but it is very difficult to know exactly what you are going to get.
“With our Flat Spaces, once they start going up around the country, once you have been to one, all the others are identical.
“It takes the worry out of travel. You know exactly what you are getting because they are identical on the inside.”
He said the reaction from disabled people had been very positive. “People are saying, ‘Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?'”
Flat Spaces has had advice from organisations such as the Thalidomide Society and Mouth and Foot Painting Artists, but is seeking partners to help fund its future work.
4 September 2014