A new supported living scheme for people with learning disabilities, including autism, has been officially opened today.

Annear Place, named in memory of Andrea and Paul Annear, who were the first couple with learning disabilities to get married in the UK, has been developed in Carlton, Nottingham, by RWP.

Former Progress Housing Group tenants Andrea and Paul met at Ormerod Trust Children's Home in St Anne's on Sea in Lancashire as childhood sweethearts. They were determined to marry but were living apart. Paul still lived at Ormerod, which had since become an adult support centre, while Andrea lived in a secure community house nearby. 

Andrea first asked if they could get married in 1996, and three years later, they were allowed to have a blessing, but being Christians, they both very much wanted a formal church wedding.

It was thanks to the intervention of Sue Sharples, the then-director of the Ormerod Trust, that they were eventually able to fulfil this dream and marry in 2004. Sadly, Paul and Andrea Annear have both since passed away. In honour of the Annear’s and their inspiring story of love and devotion, a plaque was installed at the opening of the new scheme on Thursday, 20 October.

The new facility will enable Nottinghamshire County Council to provide short-term support for up to 12 people at a time, helping them develop their independent living skills before moving on to a more independent, permanent home.

The new building features a unique mix of fully adapted shared and self-contained accommodation over two floors, and all tenants will receive support from the national charity FitzRoy to develop their independent living skills.

Annear Place is part of an ambitious plan by Nottinghamshire County Council to increase the number of supported living placements across the County. There are already 190 supported living schemes throughout Nottinghamshire, providing independent living for some 750 people.

Councillor Matt Barney, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health at Nottinghamshire County Council, said: “This fantastic new supported living service will enable us to provide short-term support for up to 12 people at a time, helping them to develop the skills they need to live more independently and eventually move on to longer-term accommodation.

"It has proved more difficult to develop schemes such as this in the south of the county because of the lack of suitable sites and the higher cost of land, so I am delighted that Annear Place is now complete, and I want to pay tribute to RWP for their determination in getting the project over the finishing line."

Managing Director of RWP and Deputy Executive Director for Progress Housing Group Les Warren said: “RWP is very proud to be a part of this scheme which provides support and care to the tenants and promotes independent living. 

"I would like to thank Nottingham County Council for their commitment to making this happen, but most importantly, we hope the tenants of the scheme will flourish in their new homes."

FitzRoy, a charity specialising in supporting people with learning disabilities, autism and mental and physical health needs, will provide onsite support 24 hours a day to ensure the tenants living at the scheme can get the support they need as they prepare for the rest of their lives.

Angela Murphy, FitzRoy’s Director of Operations, said: “FitzRoy was formed 60 years ago by Elizabeth FitzRoy, a mother who was determined that her son would not go into institutional care. Her values thread through everything we do today. We are very proud to support 104 people with learning disabilities and autism across Nottinghamshire, empowering them to thrive and live the lives they choose as important members of their local community.”

Sue Sharples, former director of the Ormerod Trust, where Andrea and Paul Annear met and who helped them get married, said: "The naming of the new scheme after Andrea and Paul is wonderful. When I first heard about it, I felt quite emotional as it brought back all the successes and joys of their lives.

It is a wonderful legacy and a reminder of how important these things are. They would have been thrilled and would have loved meeting everyone and telling them all their story."

In the following film, Sue pays tribute to the Annears, sharing her memories and talking about the challenges they faced. Watch it here: