A new community is to be ‘unlocked’ in Nottinghamshire by Keepmoat Homes, with the creation of a large access road. Andrew Mason, divisional chairman at the firm explains to Jack Wooler how the housebuilder’s commitment to funding infrastructure helped them kick start Chase Farm, as well as the wider aims for the scheme.
Atotal of 985 new homes in Nottinghamshire, alongside a new access road and a primary school, are being delivered by Keepmoat Homes, in partnership with Homes England, Gedling Borough Council, and Nottinghamshire City Council.
Named Chase Farm, the large development is part of the Gedling Colliery scheme, and will complement the new Gedling Country Park. The brownfield land at Chase Farm has been under Gedling Council’s radar for some time, in the hopes that it will help meet the Borough’s housing needs, with a target of delivering 7,250 homes by 2028.
The development of the Gedling Colliery/Chase Farm project was procured by competitive tender by Homes England, with Keepmoat Homes selected to deliver the phased development. Key to the procurement process was the requirement of a commitment to invest £18m at an early stage in the development to secure the viability of the new Gedling Access Road (GAR).
On the urban edge of Nottingham, the site was viewed as a priority for Gedling Council, with intentions to create a new sustainable neighbourhood. The development fits this specification well, offering a dynamic, ecological community covering a range of housing types, sizes and tenures.
Gedling Colliery is located five miles to the north east of Nottingham Centre. The north of the site is bordered by the recently opened Gedling Country Park, based on the grounds of the former colliery spoil heap. Shortly after the pit closed in 1991, the mining infrastructure was removed and the land underwent major reconstruction. 4,500 tonnes of local top soil was imported, trees were planted, and lagoons were reprofiled, all to improve its appearance and promote a wider diversity of wildlife.
Working in partnership with Homes England, Keepmoat gained approval for 985 homes on the Colliery site. Andrew Mason, divisional chairman at Keepmoat Homes, explained this process to Housebuilder + Developer, paying particular attention to the “collaborative” nature of the project.
“All partners recognised from an early stage in the process that due to the complex nature of Gedling Colliery and the interrelationship with the delivery of the new access road, getting the scheme through planning would require a multiagency approach.
“As a major application for Gedling Borough Council, and due to the complex nature of the planning application, Homes England provided funding to allow Arup to provide planning support to the Local Planning Authority.
“The support the authority received from Arup ensured resources and time could be dedicated to the planning application, and helped to foster an approach which was based on collaboration during the pre-application process to create a well-designed scheme which would gain approval once submitted.”
A review of the initial design was carried out by Opun during the pre-application process, following which comments and recommendations on the design were taken on board by Keepmoat and the project architects, with the revised scheme providing the basis for the final application.
Keepmoat’s planning application for the site is based on a hybrid approach to allow full planning to be granted for the first phase, alongside an outline application for the remainder of the site. Included within the first phase of development are the 315 homes able to be delivered independently of the access road, which is set to be constructed by Nottinghamshire County Council. Delivery of the remaining 735 homes is dependent on the access road being completed by 2020, which will unlock the remainder of the site for development.
Policy 15 of Greater Nottingham’s Aligned Core Strategy lists the GAR (access road) as a ‘Transport Infrastructure Priority’ and ‘important to the delivery of the Core Strategies.’ It is hoped the access road in itself will support economic development within the Borough, reduce traffic congestion and provide relief to Gedling Village. The Aligned Core Strategy recognises that comprehensive redevelopment of the Gedling Colliery site has previously stalled because of viability issues, due to the requirement to fund this new road.
In order to facilitate the new infrastructure, and proceed with development, Keepmoat Homes is providing £18m towards the construction of the road. This has, in effect, unlocked £10.8m of D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership funding allocated to Nottinghamshire County Council. Along with this, Homes England have invested £3.6m through the Public Land Investment Fund, to be repaid through the land receipt, and a further £7,000,000 to Nottinghamshire County Council for land acquisition and site assembly, to allow for the development of the GAR.
The development with Homes England was secured under an Agreement for Lease and Building Lease for each of the development phases. A tri-party Escrow Agreement has also been established between Keepmoat, Homes England and Nottinghamshire County Council for the £18m GAR payments, allowing the County Council to draw funding against qualifying expenditure.
Prior to the completion of the legal agreements with Homes England, a full assessment of the site constraints was undertaken, with a final scrutiny of the full “abnormal” costs undertaken on an open book basis before completion of the Lease to confirm the land value payment for the site.
Mason explained further:
“Given the previous use of the site identifying solutions for foundations and management, arrangements for any contamination has seen significant cost within the build.” This was augmented by “significant upfront costs associated with the ground works” to facilitate the development.
“Working with our consultants and in partnership with Homes England, we have been able to retain viability for the scheme through collaboration, built on a joint vision to deliver a high quality new development.”
Alongside the contribution towards the GAR, Keepmoat are also contributing £3.5m through an S106 payment towards the construction of a single form primary school, with 1.5 hectares of land to be provided within the site for the construction of the school.
The homes’ design
A broad range of house types have been specified at Chase Farm, including two bedroom apartments, and two, three, four and five bedroom homes.
According to Mason, the layout and design of the development has been influenced by the characteristics of the site and local context, providing a “distinctive sense of place.”
“The design uses the landmark feature of Gedling Church as a reference point,” he explains, “adding a point of orientation and creating links to the existing surrounds.” ‘Character areas’ such as this within the site have been created based on the street hierarchy and relationship to public open space, the proposed district centre, and linkages to the country park and the countryside edge.
The main homes are two storeys tall, with additional height used along the Northern boundary and adjacent to the local centre. Larger homes have been introduced along the Arnold Lane boundary to maintain the character, and reflect the existing housing in place along this route.
Keynote buildings have also been proposed in locations where they will act as focal points, contributing towards the legibility and attractiveness of the street scene. The developer commented:
“They have been located to address vistas, turn corners and address the areas of open space, and have been formed using contrasting building materials and a varied architectural detailing.”
A range of affordable rent and shared ownership will be provided by Gedling Homes and Keepmoat, with a current aim of introducing a number of private rented homes to further diversify the tenure mix across the development, ensuring the homes provided are accessible to local people.
Keepmoat is also piloting six Ilke Homes modular properties on Chase Farm, which have just recently received planning permission, with a further 30 dwellings recently submitted. The developer believes the homes can be installed at a rate of up to six units per site, per day, meaning they could save as much as six months on a 50 home development. The properties will be available for the same price as a traditionally built home, and additionally are airtight and highly insulted, costing up to 20 per cent less to heat than traditionally built new homes.
An ecological development
At Chase Farm, Keepmoat intends to create a community. Set beside a country park, pedestrian and cycle routes seamlessly and safely connect people to a diverse network of open spaces.
“Green links have been created through the site, which draws the country park into the new development, creating a distinctive identity.”
Gedling Country Park is located to the north of the development, which has become a well-used local amenity.
Andrew describes how Chase Farm has been designed to provide green links to places such as this, providing further detail:
“A habitat mosaic in the area supports an endangered species, the Dingy Skipper Butterfly being identified within Chase Farm.
“Careful retention and relocation of the habitat to the Country Park was carried out during the ground works as a means of protecting the butterfly’s habitat.
“Within the centre of the site there is located the previous railway line and tunnel which served the Colliery site. The area is mature woodland, and is to be retained as a key part of the informal public open space serving the development.”
Chase Farm’s boundary consists of mature hedgerow, which is in the main being retained. To the eastern boundary, outside of the site, but within “an area of influence”, badger setts have been identified. To protect the setts, reprogramming has been undertaken to ensure works are not carried out when the badgers could be endangered.
The masterplan for the development identified a district centre to be delivered to serve the new community, with suggested uses including local shops and a medical centre. The possible expansion of the tram network into Gedling has also been included within the plans, with land set aside for a park and ride site to ensure the residents and the surrounding local community can benefit from any future improvements to the transport network.
As to the community aspects of the project, Mason explained: “Keepmoat Homes are committed to a consistent and sustainable approach to engagement with others, and we developed a strategy providing a framework for consultation and engagement.
“Our approach demonstrates our commitment to be open, accessible and responsive, in order to deliver a vision for the future of the Chase Farm neighbourhood.”
Keepmoat has held events within the local community to update them on the progress of the scheme, and have created an online community portal. This provides information about the development and links to local agencies and services.
The housebuilder has also created an Employment and Skills Plan as part of its commitment to working with Gedling Borough Council and local agencies, to use the investment in Chase Farm to actively participate in the economic and social regeneration of local communities and neighbourhoods.
“The Employment and Skills Plan establishes clear targets for the number of trainees, apprenticeships, local labour and community activities based on the CITB training and employment model,” Mason adds.
“We have targeted the use of local labour, suppliers, subcontracts, and SMEs in the delivery of the new homes, with the aim of maximising the level of investment into the local economy, and have held local supplier events to promote the opportunities available within Chase Farm.”
With the wide range of homes on offer across the site, there are different price points to attract different purchasers. According to Keepmoat’s Mason, however, the homes “have been priced with a focus very much on first time buyers and first time movers.”
He continued: “With initiatives such as Help to Buy, we are also targeting the larger homes at family buyers who wish to remain in the local area, but have lacked choice, or the ability to afford to buy a larger new build home in the Gedling location.”
Andrew concluded: “Chase Farm is the flagship scheme within the Keepmoat Homes East Midlands region. The development provides an example of how high quality sustainable design can fully integrate with the wider community, creating new homes which benefit not only the new residents, but creates new links to wider community benefits such as schools, services and open space.
“The scale and long term nature of the development provides the opportunity for Keepmoat to work with our partners in such a way that we can introduce new initiatives and methods of working, such as the introduction of modular housing, or trialling private rented homes, without affecting the wider vision for the development.”
Mason concludes that the development shows how “a successful partnership can deliver a complex scheme within challenging timescales, and meet the expectations and vision of all involved.”