Building a later lifestyle


With increasing awareness of the need for good quality retirement developments, as our population ages, a new scheme in Buckinghamshire built by GRAHAM shows how to create communities which go way beyond simple places to live. Roseanne Field reports 

By 2040 it’s estimated the UK population will swell by a further 5% to just over 70 million – and a quarter will be aged 65 or over. Despite this, the rate at which retirement developments are being built is lagging desperately behind. 

In the 2022 Mayhew Review, it was estimated that if everyone lived in homes that were appropriately sized to their needs, 50,000 less starter homes would need to be built each year. Meanwhile, only 7,000 retirement units are currently being built – a figure that report author Professor Les Mayhew believes needs to be closer to 50,000 if the UK is to meet the housing needs of the ageing population. 

It’s Mayhew’s belief that against this backdrop, the housebuilding industry in general needs to place a much greater emphasis on building homes for ‘later living buyers.’ Not only will this benefit the older generation by providing them with suitable, comfortable homes, but it will in turn ease pressure on the care sector and free up suitable housing
stock for younger families. In particular, the report highlights the need for integrated retirement communities (IRCs), providing communal facilities and onsite care services. 

This scheme is the developer, Audley Villages’, primary model , having completed 20 retirement villages in the UK to date. GRAHAM has recently completed Wycliffe Park, located in Horsleys Green, a hamlet in the Buckinghamshire countryside.

Wycliffe Park was funded by Royal London Asset Management and assisted by Salmon Property and constructed by GRAHAM. It’s one of three Audley’s villages that the contractor has worked on. “We were initially delivering three projects for Audley in tandem,” says Pat O’Hare, GRAHAM’s South England regional director, explaining that the contractor has already finished Audley Wycliffe Park and Audley Fairmile in Cobham, with Audley Scarcroft Park in West Yorkshire nearing completion. Audley are heavily involved throughout the process, from design through to completion, and are the operator of these retirement villages. The project was handed over to the client in phases, with the final handover completed in November 2023.  

The development

Wycliffe Park consists of 156 properties spread across five blocks on a 25 acre site. The apartments are a mixture of one and two bedrooms, and finished to a high standard. Owners have the option to upgrade certain fixtures and finishes, although a high quality German kitchen and quartz worktop, plus top of the range appliances, and high end sanitaryware are all included as standard. Non-slip porcelain floor tiles are specified in the kitchens, bathrooms and ensuites, and ceramic wall tiles in kitchens and bathrooms. Rooms within the apartments are spacious and corridors wide to ensure full accessibility. 

High end apartment finishes aside, O’Hare asserts that Audley’s “number one priority” is residents’ wellbeing. At the centre of Wycliffe Park is the clubhouse, housing a number of facilities. “That’s generally the hub of the village,” says O’Hare. 

The clubhouse includes an array of amenities – a health and wellbeing centre, home to a pool, sauna, steam room, relaxation area and fitness suite, a bistro and restaurant (with a private dining room), a bar, lounge, library, and a hobbies room. The five apartment blocks – which vary between three and four storeys – are grouped around the clubhouse. The grounds include hard and soft landscaping, providing residents access to the full 25 acres, and allotments to the rear of the site. There are internal walkways and lifts within the blocks, and most also feature external walkways and verandas enabling residents to walk right around their perimeter. 

The site was previously occupied with the existing buildings demolished prior to construction. “There was an element of cut and fill,” O’Hare explains, meaning a certain amount of excavation. There was also nothing hugely out of the ordinary required from a drainage perspective, he adds, with only a few standard SuDS (Sustainable Urban Drainage) features required.  

Planning was achieved through a very collaborative and practical relationship with the local authority throughout the project, ensuring all conditions were discharged successfully.

The semi-rural location near High Wycombe could have been a potential issue in terms of deliveries to site, O’Hare explains. “The further outside London the more difficult it is, but we’re lucky to have a really good, robust supply chain,” he says. “We had a really strong team.” 

The scale of the project in itself presented some challenges to the team, requiring rigorous planning and management to ensure the desired quality was maintained across the development. “We were, and always are, diligent in how we manage our subcontractors, ensuring they work collaboratively to get the standard required and maintain this quality throughout the project” says O’Hare.

Materials & aesthetic

Audley tends to follow a similar design approach across their projects, centering on a traditional aesthetic. The buildings are finished with a mixture of brick facade and black non-combustible weatherboard cladding  plus pitched clay tile roofs. “It’s very traditional but really high quality from a retirement village point of view,” O’Hare says. “The roof has a 60 degree pitch so it’s almost like a chalet aesthetic.” 

The external walkways around the first floor feature ornate metal detailing, and balconies are finished with a black metal balustrade. Some of the taller blocks feature apartments within the roof structure, which have inset balconies also finished with a metal balustrade. Within the brick itself are some darker patterns which create further visual interest. Patio doors lead out from each apartment to either a balcony or on the ground floor or a veranda. 

As with any retirement development, safety and security was a top priority. The apartments are fitted with active fire and  intruder alarm systems, all of which are connected to a central monitoring system. Each of the five blocks also features its own security system in order to access the building. The entire village is monitored via CCTV, with Audley staff on hand 24/7. Each apartment also features an emergency call system. “Although it’s quite easy to use, it’s high tech,” says O’Hare. 

Despite the potential benefits of modern methods of construction, O’Hare explains that as part of the aim of creating a traditional ‘village’ feel, they opted for more traditional construction methods. “Even though we’re using modern building products, to get the aesthetic that’s required we stick to a brick/block built structure with a timber truss, slate roof,” he says. “It gives a more traditional aesthetic, as opposed to maybe a more stark, commercial-type finish.” 

Environmental considerations

As with most modern developments, sustainability formed an important driver for the project. The site is located within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, so a delicate approach to the landscaping was crucial. “We implemented an empathetic landscape-led approach to the design,” O’Hare says. “Environmental considerations were prioritised at every phase, from design through to construction and operation.” 

There were a lot of mature trees on the site and these were retained as much as possible – “It’s really good when you see the end product,” he says. The site features a lot of green space, with walkways and paths throughout to encourage residents to utilise the space and socialise. “It’s very much designed to create a community, with allotments to allow people to garden and maintain outdoor activities. ” 


Wycliffe Park has achieved a BREEAM Very Good rating. The design measures that contributed to this partly stemmed from a focus on climate change adaptation. Both thermal comfort within the blocks and clubhouse, and the measures taken for minimising flood risk, were designed with an allowance for the possible impact of future climate change. Local air quality benefits were maximised with ‘no NOx’ systems specified, and low flow fittings were specified for water outlets resulting in a 25% reduction in water use against the BRE baseline.  

Reducing carbon was a priority from the outset, so through careful planning the site was connected early on to the grid, and a renewable energy tariff procured. “Two temporary building supplies were installed which provided the site with 2.096 MW of 100% renewable electricity,” O’Hare explains. This was certified by Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin (REGO) and resulted in 405 tonnes of CO2 being saved over the duration of the build. 

GRAHAM also invested in using hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) on the project – a 100% biodegradable product that can offer a 90% reduction in net CO2 emissions. In total, 52% of the fuel the contractor used onsite was HVO which resulted in eliminating 204 tonnes of CO2e. The project team also worked closely with a waste management contractor to ensure all non-hazardous construction waste generated throughout the project was diverted away from landfill. 


Arguably one of the most crucial differentiators for Audley is the clubhouse and the benefits it offers residents. “It allows people to mingle with others within the community,” explains O’Hare. “That is at the heart of everything that Audley does.” As well as the facilities themselves, various organised events and activities are scheduled such as arts and crafts sessions and fitness classes. The landscaping has also been finished in a way that encourages socialisation and external activity among the residents. 

With some residents already moved in, the reaction has been very positive. “The client is extremely happy with the quality and what they’ve got,” O’Hare says. Alongside the amenities, residents are also offered peace of mind with the various care and assistance packages available – whether regular or as and when required. 

The overall ‘package’ offered by the development is about much more than just a place to live, and is something O’Hare believes is not only an aspiration, but crucial for such schemes. “It’s the sort of thing everyone who works aspires to, to have a quality of life beyond your working life,” he says. “The more people are able to enjoy their retirement this way, the better.”