THE prospect of 'chance encounters' between elderly residents and students has taken a step closer with a North Oxford development making good progress.

A new purpose built Fairfield care home – to share garden spaces with a proposed student development – reached its highest point with a topping out ceremony earlier this week.

The 38-bed care home in Banbury Road will rehome residents at the existing Fairfield Residential home next door, with the old building will eventually be converted into accommodation blocks for about 60 students.

Residents and their relatives watched from the ground as the project's key players toasted the completion of its framework atop of the building on Monday.

Chairman of the home's trustees, John Cole, laid a ceremonial layer of concrete to mark the occasion.

Mr Cole said: "So many people have been working together to produce what will be an amazing building, in which we will be able to provide our residents with the highest levels of comfort, enjoyment and facilities.

"At the same time it will retain the ethos and exceptional standards of care which Fairfield has become famous for over the past 70 years."

The new facility will ensure the care home passes Care Quality Commission inspections in the long term.

Plans for the scheme revealed that elderly residents and students could share 'chance encounters' in the garden space and Mr Cole said its residents from academic backgrounds could even give talks.

Work will not be completed until the middle of next year, when 29 students will move into the old Fairfield home, with six blocks being built to house 30 more students after that.

The home's manager, Alison Parry, said: "From the top of our new building I could look down on the existing Fairfield care home and it reminded me of how much we have achieved.

"There is still a long way to go before we move in in a years' time, but milestones like this make me realise how marvellous it will be for our residents and staff to have a purpose built new home."

Director of the project's construction firm, Paul Hardy, said: "We are very pleased to be constructing the new Fairfield care home.

"We are working very closely with the team to deliver this wonderful project and were very proud to host the topping out ceremony.

"You can see how much this means to the current residents."