Downsize to a flat, the story has just started

Downsize to a flat with a wet room

We live in a Victorian terraced house. Downsize to a flat is our next step but the challenges have only just begun. We moved into this house over 20 years ago and its now time to move on and start a new chapter in our lives. The children grew up here and now lead independent lives. We want to retire. This house is far too big and is not suitable for a man with advanced multiple sclerosis.

Must haves

The area that tickles our fancy is Southeast London. Essential are good transport links into central London that are wheelchair accessible and close to the shops as well. The flat must have a roll-in wet room or bathroom that can be adapted, this is a deal breaker. MrsB yearns for good views. If possible, no hills.

Downsize to a flat

Finding the flat is where the problems begin. There are plenty of flats advertised but estate agents skid over my basic requirements. I cannot climb steps but I receive details for flats with steps up to the entrance. I can only walk with assistance but they assume I can get into a bath.

There are plenty of people with mobility and balance problems. Stop and think for a moment. The elderly, people who have had a stroke or injured after a road traffic accident come into this category and there are plenty more. This disability does not discriminate. I need space for a shower while sitting in a chair. Its call a wet room and is as common as hen’s teeth.

South East London

There are lots of flats already built as well building so many new ones. We have not found any flats on the market with a wet room. The shower-tray needs to be replaced with a shower-proof floor. Builders of new flats say there is not enough space beneath the floor to convert an area with a shower tray into a wet room. This is a design feature of the new builds ☹

Moving is full of problems

The council will not help until you live in the area. The work is means tested and there is a waiting list. If you want to buy a newly built flat with a wheelchair accessible shower then you must reserve it one to two yeas before it is available

Will we live in a retirement village? No chance. The idea of a property with poor access to public transport, entertainment, shops or the buzz of life is definitely not for me

Our wet toom and shower

Our wet room and shower

Level access wet room showers

This type of shower is not restricted to people with mobility and balance problems. This style of shower would be perfectly acceptable to many other people. The shower area in my local public swimming pool is nothing more than a huge wet room.

Builders want to maximise their profits and simplify the build and the councils do not make life easy either.  The design is aimed at cost savings and is not inclusive, People with mobility problems are excluded from this popular area. Isn’t this ableism?

Eventually everything will sort itself out for us meanwhile this story has only just begun.

Associated article

Disability wet room from the council

Tips on to get a grant from the council




September 2022

7 responses to “Downsize to a flat, the story has just started”

  1. Dr. MC Black says:

    Are any of the properties on the former Royal Arsenal Site suitable?

    Have you asked about Housing Associations ?

    • Hello MS,

      It will be definitely possible to convert the bathroom in the original buildings. The new blocks of flats cannot be converted according to Berkeley who have built the new flats.

      I’m looking into shared ownership, not too sure what the rules and regs are. Peabody are building quite a bit in SE London and they do seem to understand some of the requirements of wheelchair users but frequently the flats are not close to train or tubs stations. Needs more investigation.

  2. Allan McMillan says:

    This is always difficult. My good friend looked locally for a property like you for years, eventually giving up and moving back to Bradford.
    Where I live there are 12 (one bedroom) ground floor maisonettes. As usual the new owner replaces the bathroom wet room or not. I have never seen a wet room advertised in the For Sale listings.
    A voluntary 3 months to find a buyer who needs the converted bathroom? No I can’t see that working in our daft housing market. Best of luck

    • Hello Alan,

      I Never thought it would be easy. Its the total disregard that floors me. In this day and age I would have thought that the local council would have a greater say in the design and construction of new builds.

      Ah well, a solution will appear but we are going to have to make compromises

  3. Judy Graham says:

    Hi Patrick,
    Great article! I have been through what you are going through! In my experience, councils will not pay for adaptations unless you fall below £23,250 in assets. I don’t think you qualify. It is far less hassle if you do and pay for the adaptations yourself. I recently hired a builder who specialises in wet rooms to replace my old bathroom with a wheel in wet room. Not cheap, but a complete game changer. The architecture of SE London is mostly houses with steps up to the front door. I used to live in Camden where the same applies. Estate agents haven’t got a clue! My solution was to move out of inner London to outer London. I bought a 3 bed 2 bath bungalow with nice garden in Mill Hill. Round the corner from good shops and Thameslink station to King’s Cross. Could not be more convenient. The bungalow is freehold, which gives you much more freedom. You also don’t have neighbours above. The outer London boroughs have a good supply of bungalows. If you want to live near SE London, Bromley etc might suit.
    Best wishes, Judy

    • Hello Judy,

      Some excellent points there. Our reason for moving is to be closer to the family. Also good communication links are essential, mainly into and around London. The Elizabeth line and DLR ticks so many boxes for a wheelchair user. OK I use a mobility scooter but same principle and problems.

      Inevitable we will need to compromise but society has completely missed this need and it not going to get any better.

  4. Sarah says:

    I don’t envy you your search Patrick! I have long argued that all ground floor flats being built should automatically have wheelchair access throughout. Even the “over 55’s” proposed new estate near me – incidentally on the extreme edge of our village so as far away as possible from all amenities – has no planned provision for disabled people whatsoever. It is hugely frustrating!

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