Napoloen Tree (1)

It may be a rather unassuming tree, but it was the weeping willow that took centre stage at a celebration to mark the start of work on ten new affordable housing units in Norton, Worcestershire.

The tree, which stands on the site of the former Norton Barracks is commonly referred to as the ‘Napoleon tree’. It is so called as it is grown from a sapling taken from the original tree that stood in the grounds of Longwood Manor, St. Helena where Napoleon Bonaparte was imprisoned following his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo.

So when construction of the new homes got underway for Evesham-based Rooftop Housing Group it was decided to ensure that the site’s link to one of the most significant events in British military history was not forgotten. At a special ceremony last week (19 March) a plaque was unveiled by Brigadier Gerhard Wheeler CBE, Commander 143 (West Midlands) Brigade, which commemorates the link between Norton and this historic event.

These particular units are being built for returning service personnel and those who have retired from the armed forces. The scheme forms part of Rooftop’s commitment to the Worcestershire Armed Forces Community Covenant.

Speaking at the event, Brigadier Gerhard Wheeler CBE, Commander 143 (West Midlands) Brigade said: “I am very honoured to commemorate the building of these new properties and am delighted that the works include the recognition of the Napoleon Tree on this site, which was for so many years, dating back to the 19th Century, the home of the Worcestershire Regiment. With this year being the centenary of the beginning of World War One, it is a further reminder of the sacrifices that our Armed Forces have made, and continue to make across the globe and I know that these properties will be greatly appreciated by those that make them their home.”

Rachel Lathan, Chair of Evesham and Pershore Housing Association (part of Rooftop) added: “Projects like this are a great example of what can be achieved when people work together. I feel really proud of what is happening here through the efforts of Rooftop, MoD, Wychavon District Council, Norton Juxta Kempsey Parish Council, contractors Speller Metcalfe and many others. It’s going to be a terrific development.”

When complete, the development will provide ten modern energy-efficient homes comprising; four 1-bed flats and two 2-bed flats for affordable rent, two 3-bed houses for affordable rent and two 3-bed houses for shared ownership. The total cost of the scheme is just under £1.3 million which includes grant funding of £55,000 from Wychavon District Council and £263,000 from the Homes and Communities Agency. The project is due to be completed in September 2014.

Jack Hegarty, Managing Director at Wychavon District Council added: "We’re always keen to support ex-service men and women. Finding the right housing after leaving the forces can be challenging. We can’t wait to see the finished project and we’re proud to be an active partner.”

The construction work on-site is being carried out by Speller Metcalfe, with whom Rooftop has worked successfully on a number of housing projects and architects BM3 have designed the properties to ensure that they meet the Homes and Communities Agency’s Design and Quality Standards.They will be constructed to a minimum of Code for Sustainable Homes level 3, meet or exceed the minimum Housing Quality Indicators in terms of space standards, property layout and services, and also meet the Lifetime Homes Standards.