The Salvation Army Housing Association (saha) and The Salvation Army officially declared the opening of a £5.4m Copper Beech Avenue project in Bramley, Leeds – saha's largest project to date – with an opening ceremony. The project, which took some 60 weeks to complete and includes 54 newly built homes and a redeveloped families centre that had previously offered accommodation to families and single women experiencing homelessness, was built with the community in mind – creating a high-quality, affordable living space that provides places for people to socialise and build their lives together. It incorporates Copper Beech Nursery, which had fostered a strong sense of community through its links with local families, and saha was keen to maintain this sense of unity. The former Mount Cross Families Centre was converted into affordable-to-rent apartments - it is apt the development will continue as a place of belonging for a diverse mix of people. Added value elements to the site include the hub, open to the wider Bramley community, where saha’s housing officer Andy Bargewell and Salvation Army church leader Captain Caroline Heward are based and will be looking to find ways of harnessing the spirit and talents of local people to build up the Bramley community. Captain Heward said: “A thriving community isn’t one that divides and separates its members, but one in which individuals can come together and learn from and empower each other. “Therefore, it’s apt that at the heart of this brand new community, The Salvation Army will be continuing its legacy of offering welcome, support and friendship by discovering what opportunities people would like to uncover and to encourage them to commit their time and skills to benefit everyone. I’m looking forward to seeing how we harness people’s hobbies, talents, skills and interests to ensure Bramley continues to be a thriving community.” The project was completed to a high specification in October 2016. Costing some £5.4 million and taking 60 weeks (running both to time and budget), the development comprises a range of properties at affordable prices. Nigel Parrington, saha Chief Executive, says the standard of the development is second to none: “A lot of thought has gone into those added extras that really make a house a home; not only have we been able to provide excellent long-term homes for people but also a place where we can work together to understand what our community wants to see happen where they live. “The housing created was very intentional. To reflect the needs of a community we created a development that included a range of accommodation such as detached and semi-detached houses, two and three bedroom houses and one-bed apartments. This was key in ensuring there was a strong mix of families and couples, younger and older people. There’s a real sense that, as a community, when we’re together we are stronger, and by pulling together people of diverse ages and walks of life, this can be a reality in Bramley. “As we officially open the site, it’s a great time to acknowledge all those who supported and contributed to making this such a successful development, including Strategic Team Group, Gleeds, Novus Solutions, DK Architects, HJP Surveyors, as well as Leeds City Council and the Homes and Communities Agency, which provided grant funding in addition to our own.” Copper Beech benefits from multiple spaces where people can meet and mix, creating a sense of belonging. There are communal gardens as well as an informal play area with boulders and stepping stones to encourage children to play and exercise under the watchful eye of their parents! During the building of the development, the contractors engaged offered four local young people building trade apprenticeships with most of their time spent carrying out works on Copper Beech. The Salvation Army’s national leader, Territorial Commander Clive Adams, and saha chairman Commissioner John Matear conducted the official ‘opening’ ceremony (on 31 March 2017), recognising the achievements of all involved in the project and celebrating with residents who now are able to reap the rewards of the completed site. Resident Amy Emmerson, 31, and her son, Jack, 6, representing the new tenants, also took part. Amy and Jack previously lived at Mount Cross, where staff had supported the mother and son who were without accommodation – Jack also attended Copper Beech Nursery, where Amy works. At the nursery Amy was encouraged to apply for one of the new homes at Copper Beech, and her application was successful. Amy said: “We are so happy! It is lovely to stay somewhere we can call our home. Receiving one of the houses near the nursery has benefitted us so much as I am closer to work and Jack now has a garden to play in and a larger bedroom. I am close to my friends and work colleagues and our neighbours are all so lovely and friendly. “We definitely won’t be moving for a very, very long time!” Saha housing officer Andy Bargewell and Captain Caroline Heward are now based at Copper Beech’s hub and will be looking to find ways of harnessing the talents of locals to build up the Bramley community.