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Dee Park is honoured by a Royal visit for the official opening of Oak Tree House

HRH The Duke of Kent KG was the guest of honour at Dee Park today when he visited the estate to witness the progress of its regeneration and to lead celebrations for the opening of Oak Tree House, a superb new extra care housing scheme for elderly residents.

The visit was particularly appropriate because The Duchess of Kent originally opened the Dee Park estate in 1969. More than 40 years later it is undergoing a £150 million eight-year regeneration led by Dee Park Partnership (DPP), a joint venture between Willmott Dixon and Catalyst Housing, in partnership with Reading Borough Council.

The Duke was welcomed to Dee Park by the chair of the Dee Park Board and leader of Reading Borough Council, Jo Lovelock; The Lord Lieutenant, Mary Bayliss and Mayor of Reading, Councillor Deborah Edwards. Also present were the chief executives of the joint venture partners and representatives of Dee Park’s Community Regeneration Action Group (CRAG).

During a tour of Dee Park, the Duke spoke with long-term residents and new purchasers of the private homes, all of whom are benefiting from the high quality new housing. He also met with members of the community group Pride of Dee Park and of the construction team behind the new homes.

At Oak Tree House, the Duke unveiled a plaque to mark its opening and met some of the elderly residents who have recently moved in. The five-storey building has 60 self-contained flats, each with a balcony or terrace, a residents’ lounge on every floor, communal dining room and a hair and beauty salon. One of the residents, Mrs Muriel Cook, 75, commented: “We are thrilled to bits with our new home and can’t believe how lucky we are to be living here.”

Rod Cahill, chief executive of Catalyst Housing and co-chair of DPP said “Dee Park is undergoing substantial change which is greatly benefiting the people who live here. Oak Tree House is a symbol of this change and will be a central and vital part of the community.”

Leader of Reading Borough Council, Jo Lovelock commented: “The opening of Oak Tree House is a really exciting landmark in the regeneration of Dee Park. Many local residents still remember the original opening of the estate by The Duchess of Kent and were delighted that The Duke performed the opening ceremony today.”

In Phase 1 of the regeneration, Dee Park Partnership is delivering 264 new homes in a mix of one and two-bedroom apartments and two, three and four-bedroom houses. 124 of these homes are being offered by Catalyst Housing to existing residents on the estate for affordable rent and 140 homes are available for private sale through Willmott Dixon. In addition, the surroundings are being transformed with improved landscaping, more open spaces and better roads. More than 100 people have already moved into new homes at Dee Park, bringing the impact of the regeneration alive. The regeneration of Dee Park has been supported by more than £14m in investment from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), which has been used to deliver 51 new homes for social rent, the new extra care facility and a further 76 homes in later stages of development.

Peter Jones HCA head of area said: “It’s great that the results of our investment can now be felt by local people in Dee Park and that The Duke of Kent has taken time to see the impact that this is having.

“Further investment from ourselves and our partners is enabling residents to continue to live on the estate in new homes and helping partners create a place that meets local aspirations for the area. I’m really pleased that Dee Park has received such a high profile visit.”

Reading Borough Council recently approved Phase 2 of the scheme, which will provide a further 106 homes.