Great expectations

LISTEN HERE 🔊

A mix of 40 high-end and local authority homes are being constructed in a desirable Cambridgeshire village. Jack Wooler reports on how Hayfield Homes delivered its first scheme in the county.

40 new properties are being delivered by Hayfield Homes in the historic Cambridgeshire village of Great Gransden. Named Hayfield Avenue, the project consists of 24 luxury open market homes, alongside 16 being delivered for local housing association Cross Keys Homes.

As part of the focus on community, ‘Play Streets’ have been incorporated within the 4.4 acre site to enable children to play safely, and the developer also created a linear route running through the centre of the scheme. This central street will see the road surface designated as an area for cars and pedestrians to share, according to the housebuilder and council’s shared brief.

A total of 12 house types will feature across this site, giving a choice of two, three, four and five-bedroom homes. The open market homes are particularly high spec, says the developer, with highly-insulated studies for improved acoustics when home working, and air source heat pumps.

Located off Sand Road, the development aspires to the feel of a traditional village community, with Great Gransden having previously been a winner of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England’s Best Kept Village competition. The area is highly sought after due to its Ofsted Outstanding schools, local amenities, peaceful yet convenient location, collection of historic buildings, and the Gransden & District Agricultural Society Annual Show.

The first residents have already taken occupation of their homes in recent weeks, and Hayfield is on track to complete the £13.8m development by the end of 2021.

Getting planning

The prime residential site was purchased from Catesby Estates plc in 2019 with an outline consent in place. Hayfield worked with architect and planning consultant Woods Hardwick on the reserved matters planning application, and construction work commenced in summer 2020.

The developer retained “close engagement” with stakeholders and planning officers at Huntingdonshire District Council throughout the planning process for the scheme, including tackling some local opposition. This was the only development taking place within a five-mile radius of the village.

“The Great Gransden site is a prime residential opportunity in a beautiful village which has seen very little new development,” explained Mark Gay, planning director of Hayfield. “We have actively targeted Cambridgeshire and are thrilled to have launched Hayfield Avenue as our first scheme in the county.”

As soon as the team acquired the Sand Road site back in 2019, says Gay, they sought to “comprehensively understand the key design characteristics and architectural features which make Great Gransden so attractive and appealing.” The resulting Arts and Crafts-inspired designs complemented existing properties in the village.

Material challenges

The construction programme is currently in full flow, with work on all 40 homes well advanced, and a number of homes already completed and occupied. As with most projects in recent times, however, this has not been without its challenges.

According to Andy Morris, managing director of Hayfield, notwithstanding Covid, the building materials shortage is having a major impact on the developer’s business. “It is not just caused by issues relating to the pandemic, but also by other factors such as manufacturing delays, Brexit, and the Suez Canal blockage,” he says.

These challenges come alongside continued growth in demand in the new homes market, and a 20 per cent increase in home improvement products to upgrade residential properties.

The MD told Housebuilder & Developer that this unprecedented “perfect storm scenario” is impacting all stages of the build, from the fabric construction through to the internal fitout. Current materials shortages being experienced on the project include bricks, blocks, plastics, timber and glazing.

“Our highly experienced team is working very closely with our supply chain to mitigate the impact to our customers,” he explains. Robust funding streams and cash reserves have enabled the firm to “forecast and forward orders many months ahead,” however Morris admits that current demand “is in excess of supply.”

He adds, “with strong financial backing, we wholeheartedly committed to this project in order to secure and create new jobs in both Hayfield and the construction supply chain.”

Specification

Despite the challenges in acquiring materials, according to the developer no expense has been spared in ensuring the luxury homes meet the needs of Hayfield’s discerning target market.

Following analysis of the existing architectural vernacular of Great Gransden, the new houses take specific design cues from properties in the village. The collection of brick and render homes’ interiors feature bespoke Manor Interiors kitchens, ROCA Laufen bathrooms, Minoli ceramic tiles, underfloor heating, Hammonds fitted wardrobes, heritage bronze ironmongery, and Farrow & Ball paint.

Alongside this, OFNL (Open Fibre Networks) fibre broadband up to 360 Mbps download speeds is being installed in all homes. The dedicated home study (or smallest bedroom) at each home is being constructed with high insulation levels to deaden sound and enable homeowners to work more effectively while other family members are at home.

A five-bedroom show home has been styled by Lifestyle Interiors to “articulate modern country living and accentuate all these features.” Bespoke joinery and natural textures have been combined with a neutral colour palette to illustrate how Hayfield Avenue’s rural village setting can be combined with a contemporary interior.

Gemma Schofield, managing director at Lifestyle Interiors commented: “To achieve the perfect interior to match these stunning homes, we wanted to add depth to the traditional country design style – in order to modernise it.” She continues: “Hayfield Avenue maintains simplicity and elegance throughout, which is a hallmark of the country chic look.”

The interior finishes include natural hues and neutral tones such as whites, creams, browns and beiges, which Schofield says “creates a warm, welcoming and smart country home, while allowing the beautiful architecture and light-filled living spaces to do the talking.”

She continues: “We hope visitors pick up on all the luxury details, such as the bespoke joinery inset with bronze antique mirrors, the soft feature lighting, and the use of many different textures and tones.”

Ecology

Matching the rest of the homes’ high specification, and meeting the rising demand for sustainable homes – arguably even more of a factor at this price point – Hayfield worked hard on the properties’ sustainability credentials.

Ahead of incoming mandatory requirements of the 2025 Future Homes Standard, the homes have eschewed natural gas heating, instead opting for heat pumps. Reducing running costs and minimising fossil fuel consumption, the heating technology has been proven to cut carbon emissions by up to 45 per cent, while also delivering energy cost savings to residents.

As part of this system, underfloor heating has also been installed in all the homes, as an efficient way to not only heat the homes, but also reduce the spread of dust – aiding allergy sufferers.

As well as technological improvements, Hayfield has also reduced the predicted energy usage across the development by 10% through a fabric first insulation strategy.

Further adding to its green credentials, each dwelling has been designed for efficient water use – no more than 110 litres of non-recycled water usage per person per day. ‘Sustainable Travel Welcome Packs’ are provided to new residents to identify public transport or car-share scheme opportunities, and wildflower and wet meadow grassland planting, combined with bat and bird boxes (in both retained habitats and within the new homes) ensure the development provides a net gain in biodiversity.

Striking a chord

A Home Builders Federation five-star builder, Hayfield recently won Gold and Bronze accolades at the 2020 WhatHouse? Awards and three Pride in the Job NHBC Awards. The firm knows the value of building a home in the best way available, in the best location available, and the results are clear on this scheme.

“The combination of the traditional architecture with a high-spec, eco-efficient interior is really striking a chord with purchasers,” says Kelly Sharman, sales and marketing director for Hayfield.

“The people who are currently moving into their new Hayfield Avenue homes include those already living in Great Gransden, and families relocating from over 100 miles away – offering something for everybody.”

Great Gransden itself is well served by the two nearby towns of Cambourne and St Neots, the latter the largest town in Cambridgeshire with a 47 minute direct train service to London’s Kings Cross. The village is also a convenient location for commuting into Cambridge, Bedford, Stevenage and Peterborough and across East Anglia, the nearby A428 providing excellent access to major routes, and has a well-connected bus service.

The scheme isn’t all about high-end luxury, however. Due to the proximity of Addenbrookes and Papworth Hospitals, this scheme is also proving popular with NHS workers. Hayfield delighted is offering an “exclusive” £5,000 Key Worker Discount to all buyers who meet the criteria. With only five homes in the development still on sale at the time of writing, this two-pronged project’s an unqualified success.