New student accommodation officially opened by long-term supporters

Our £6.2 million specialist residence at Ullenwood that was funded by the Building a Brighter Future appeal has officially opened.

By Matt Walsh · 26/10/2023

National Star is using the latest smart technology to enable young people with complex disabilities and learning difficulties to develop their independence skills.

Long-term supporters Jack Thorne and Rachel Mason officially opened the £6.2 million specialist residence at Ullenwood that was funded by the Building a Brighter Future appeal on 25 October.

Jack is one of the most successful writers in the UK, writing both for TV and stage. Among his credits are BBC’s His Dark Materials, Harry Potter and The Cursed Child, Enola Holmes, and currently The Motive and The Cue at The National Theatre (directed by Sam Mendes). Rachel, who grew up in Cheltenham, is an agent who represents comedy acts, including Daisy May and Charlie Cooper.

Meeting complex needs and enhancing learning

Students moved into Bradbury House and Scott House in September. Both residences fully meet their complex needs and enhance their learning.

Each of the 13 bedrooms, which includes the Ingram Discovery Rooms (independence and assessment suite), have specialist overhead tracking hoists and ensuite facilities ensuring that privacy and dignity is maintained for those with high levels of personal care needs. There are wide corridors that can easily accommodate large electric wheelchairs ensuring everyone can easily move around their home.

Maizie and Dan using smart fridge
Living room featuring sofas, tv, cupboards and doors leading to outside
Accessible kitchen featuring ovens, fridge, accessible worktops

The Ingram Discovery Rooms has been designed as a ‘smart house’ assessment suite and is equipped with a range of accessible AI equipment, from Alexa to a talking fridge.

The suite will support incoming student assessments and trial independent living as well as demonstrate what technology would enable students to live more independent lives. Then that technology can be fitted into their rooms so that they can learn to use it before leaving college.

Wide range of support

The charity raised £3.1 million for the new development receiving a wide range of support from several trusts and foundations. These included some significant gifts from The Julia & Hans Rausing Trust, Edward Gostling Foundation, The MariaMarina Foundation, The Bradbury Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation and St James’s Place Charitable Foundation. The remaining £3.1 million came from a legacy, the sale of the charity’s Gloucester accommodation, Elizabeth House, and a top-up from the charity’s reserves.

Peter Horne, Deputy Chief Executive National Star, said: ‘We are enormously grateful to all those individuals, businesses, trusts, and foundations who have been so generous with their support. This new accommodation will improve the lives of young people with complex physical and learning disabilities and create stimulating spaces to live, learn and relax in, enabling them to get the most out of the life enhancing opportunities that National Star offers.’

The accommodation was designed by Cheltenham architects coombes:everitt and constructed by regional contractor Speller Metcalfe. Other businesses involved in the project included Burnley Wilson Fish, SF Planning, MHP Design, David Smith Associates, APA Construction Consultancy and Nuttall Engineering.