THOSE of a certain age may still imagine civil servants in pinstripe suits arriving for work and secretaries furiously tapping away at their typewriters at a Government office in Taunton.

But nowadays you're more likely to hear the clink of glasses in the bar and a bingo caller shouting out 'two fat ladies' at Quantock House.

We are of course talking of two different Quantock Houses.

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The last workers have long since departed the eyesore, high rise, 1960s tower block in Paul Street after it was vacated by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, while that building was more recently demolished.

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In its place has sprung up a modern, eight- and nine-storey complex of retirement living apartments, which can claim to reach higher into the sky than any other building in the town, given that it's built on an upward sloping plot.

A number of the 89 homes are already occupied and the first man in, Ian MacKenzie, who took up residence on January 10, was still in his teens when the original Quantock House went up.

The development, which offers views over Vivary Park to the Blackdown Hills and to the Quantock Hills tucked behind Taunton Minster, features 36 one-bedroom apartments and 53 two-bedroom homes, over a residents' car park.

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The apartments - Jes Gill senior relationship manager for the developer Affordable Housing and Healthcare, corrects anyone who refers to them as 'flats' - come with large bedrooms, fully "inclusive" kitchen forming part of an open plan dining room and lounge.

Mr Gill said the scheme offers people aged over 55 a "whole lifestyle".

He added: "There are big, wide open spaces making everywhere accessible and lots of windows letting in light.

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"Our residents can be completely independent. We're offering a whole lifestyle.

"There are plenty of communal facilities and on-site activities for the residents to enhance their retirement."

The communal facilities include areas such as a snug TV room, an owners' lounge and games room where residents can meet up to relax, enjoy chatting with others, make new friends and play bingo.

There's a bar with an outdoor terrace giving residents a bird's eye view of the street below, and bistro, with fresh food prepared in a commercial kitchen.

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There's a room where residents can take part in exercise classes, attend clubs and presentations, as well as a treatment room or mini spa for massages, manicures and pedicures.

A hotel-style en suite guest room is available for visitors.

"It's like being on holiday permanently," said Mr Gill.

"We focus on being happy, healthy and keeping it affordable.

"We ensure it is available for the many. We're talking about luxury living made affordable."

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Which brings us to the question on every potential residents' lips - 'How much is it going to cost?'

There are various options, with shared ownership schemes starting at 25 per cent ownership, up to full ownership.

Prices start from £52,500 for a quarter ownership of a one-bedroom apartment, rising to £635,000 for a top of the range home fully belonging to the buyer.

"The apartments are being snapped up," said Mr Gill. "There are still a few remaining."

On the day they move in, residents are given the assistance of a building supervisor, who helps with odd jobs such as putting up curtains and pictures and ensuring people have everything they need in their new home.

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So, what's the verdict of the residents already living at Quantock House?

Mr MacKenzie, aged 77, moved from a large detached home in Somerset.

"I was living there all on my own," he said.

"I came and had a look at this complex and thought, 'That's just what I need'.

"It seems to be exactly right for me and I've made lots of good friends here."

Wendy del Grosso, 62, moved in with her husband Len and their dog Tilly in January after leaving their home in Blagdon Hill.

She said: "It's amazing. It's the best move we've ever done.

"When I first opened the door to the apartment with the bright light, I could see it would be easy to live in.

"I could just see I was going to be happy and put a reserve fee in that same day.

"I was a little bit worried at the beginning, thinking, 'Am I doing the right thing?'

"I'd lived in a house all my adult life and moving into an apartment was a worry. I needn't have worried."

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Dee Norval, 76, moved from Worthing to be nearer her daughter and son-in-law.

She said: "It's lovely. My late husband came to look at Taunton and thought it would be nice to retire here.

"I decided I'd make the move, so a year ago saw the floor plan and just liked the idea of the views and being in the town rather than outside."

*For more information and to take a tour of Quantock House, call the Platinum Skies team on 01202 040996.

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