Retiring together

Working in a JV on a scheme to bring 137 affordable and private homes to a brownfield site in Sutton Coldfield, McCarthy Stone and Anchor explore their ethos 

Sutton Coldfield, eight miles north east of Birmingham City Centre, has – along with most places in the UK – seen an ageing of its population in recent years. 

Many in the wider industry have long argued that the country’s housing options are inadequate at present to support the needs and expectations of this rise, arguing for more specialist retirement accommodation to provide a greater choice for those in later life, while freeing up the wider housing market for families and first-time buyers down the chain.

Intending to fulfil this demand in the region, a new partnership between McCarthy Stone and Anchor is launching a range of such schemes, with the JV’s latest, in Sutton Coldfield itself, just being given the go-ahead. 

The new 137 home development promises not just a mix of private and affordable apartments for older residents, but indoor communal facilities, high quality landscaped gardens, and a range of other amenities shared between two buildings.

These two buildings, one each to be run by McCarthy Stone and Anchor, have recently been granted planning permission, covering a redevelopment of the brownfield site, continuing its ever-strengthening relationship.

Together, the partnership already has a pipeline of over 1,000 multi-tenure retirement properties across eight large scale ‘villages,’ with more expected to be added, offering a range of tenures to
meet different affordability levels, including ownership, shared ownership and social rent. 


With the joint venture’s combined strengths, the partnership sees itself as among the leading retirement providers. McCarthy Stone is reportedly the UK’s largest developer and manager of retirement homes, and Anchor Hanover claims to be England’s largest not-for-profit provider of specialist housing and care for people in later life.

The proposed site for the partnership’s fifth retirement community so far is located on the former Royal Works site – a brownfield plot on Coleshill Street. Last year the JV undertook research with WPI Economics in order to consider the economic viability of redeveloping the site, and constructing 137 units – as well as considering its impact on the area, being near the local town centre and
high street. 

The conclusions of this research indicated that the development would be financially worthwhile for the partnership and the local area. It was predicted to generate around £1.6m of resource investment per year, over £1m of which would be in local businesses. 

Jane Ashcroft CBE, chief executive of Anchor, expressed her excitement about the plan: “The changing needs of our ageing society mean demand for specialist housing, and care is strong and growing across all price points.

“We have ambitious plans to provide more homes where people love living in later life and to do so more quickly. We’re keen to work with a range of partners to meet that demand and support the Government’s objective of more accessible housing for older people. Our partnership with McCarthy Stone will help us to achieve these aims.”


Due to the nature of the 1.45 hectare site acquired, some works would be necessary before its development – including the demolition of a house to improve access to the site. 

The land, bordered by homes and a railway line, formerly held a mix of industrial factory and office buildings, but these had since been demolished. The plot was predominantly scrub land with mature trees forming the boundary to the site, and the site displayed a considerable level change from west to east, another aspect that needed to be considered in the plans. 

Located in a predominantly residential area, the site is close to Sutton Coldfield town centre, and – being located near to the local high street, is well placed to access the town’s amenities, including a newsagents, butchers, bakery, pub, and local cafe. 

Despite the often contentious planning restrictions in locations like this, the site had previously been included within the council’s most recent Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA), which noted that the former industrial land was suitable for residential development. 


Even with backing from local plans, since submitting the application in February 2022, the JV’s journey to getting consent has not been plain sailing. 

Working closely with Birmingham City Council and statutory consultees to produce a design that was appropriate for the site and which would work for all in the local community, the partnership brought in a range of local stakeholders and residents to consult them on their input and include their feedback where possible. 

As part of this, a virtual exhibition was held to increase awareness and communication among locals, the exhibition showcasing the plans and giving the public the chance to comment on the project in person. 

Despite the proposed site being disused land, the JV faced some concerns from the locals as to the potential impact on the area, both visually and economically. These included concerns that the homes should be allocated to younger families (perceived by some to spend more money and contribute more to the local economy), as well as arguments made that more local housing is needed for young people in the area.

Others were concerned about the impact of the skyline of the area, with the original plan’s higher stories likely to be visible from across the area being seen as an undesirable outcome.

Hoping to address as many of these concerns as possible, the consultation process has resulted in reducing both buildings by one storey from the original plans – which was hoped to sufficiently reduce any perceived visual impact. And, following its research with WPI Economics which demonstrated the money the project will bring to the local economy, the JV hoped the demographic concerns of its residents would be further addressed.


With the plan now finalised and given planning consent, the new site entrance – partly covering the area occupied by the demolished house – is set to begin construction in the form of a block-paved road. There will be a central strip of trees and a pedestrian path separated from the road by a grass verge. 

At the end of this road, part of the walking route in and out of the development, will be an entrance garden, enclosed by an evergreen hedge, providing a focus for views from Coleshill Street. 

Together, the two buildings at the end of this road will comprise a U-shape, varying in height from three to five storeys to address the difference in levels across the site. The building is intended to give the perception of no more than four storeys when viewed from street level.

The designs for these buildings, says the project team, will utilise “architectural links to form a more cohesive community,” indicating its shared facilities through the landscaped gardens and secure connecting footpaths. 

As to the latter, the plans cover wide-ranging improvements of the site boundaries around both the buildings, including 4,771 m2 of communal gardens, seating areas, and new shrub and tree planting – as well as the retention of existing trees on site where possible. 


The proposals for both projects are centred around offering residents a sense of community, security, independence and peace of mind, informed by the JV’s significant experience in the sector.

With Sutton Coldfield’s ageing population in mind, the two developments are intended to cover a range of differing needs – including not just different levels of affordability, but tailored levels of care required, suiting their personal circumstances and needs, and providing nearby support if and when those needs are present.

Anchor’s assisted living building will comprise 32 one bedroom apartments and 53 two bed apartments. Amenities on offer will include a dining room, lounge, kitchen, reception, hair and beauty salon, activity room, wellbeing room, and a quiet room, plus staff facilities, office, meeting room, internal buggy store and guest suite – accessible through three staircases and two lifts.

Inside McCarthy Stone’s retirement apartment block, the accommodation will comprise 32 one bedroom apartments and 20 two bedroom apartments. There will be a similar range of amenities – the ground floor will contain a resident’s lounge, reception lobby, guest suite, bin store, cycle store, and buggy/scooter store, with the building accessible via two staircases and a lift. An 89-space ‘courtyard’ car park will be shared by the two buildings, for use by residents, visitors and staff.  


The joint venture have described the proposals for these buildings as being of a contemporary design, “with an elegant appearance, fitting of this key location.” This was reportedly supported by planning, the department being consulted as part of this process, and advising that the “coherent, contemporary” approach of the project will help to create a “well-defined character.” They noted its well proportioned facades, generous glazing, and additional architectural interest arising from decorative brick detailing – including glazed green saw-tooth detailing around windows and ribbed brick roof parapets. 

Brick is, in fact, one of the key visual links between the blocks, being the main material across both. The design for McCarthy’s block, for instance, will utilise a construction of light multi-brickwork, with vertical detailing and grey window treatments, where Anchor’s will feature two bricks – a darker one at low level, and lighter on the top floor.

Across the development, a number of the apartments on the upper floors of both buildings will also benefit from balconies breaking up these brick facades, with some of the ground floor or both benefiting from patios. 


According to its own research, the partnership says there are 2 million older people with housing equity of £150-250k who are not being catered for in the market at present. Some are at the ‘upper’ end who can afford to buy outright, and some in the lower end who will require a part ownership or social rented option.

The JV aims to position itself at the forefront of addressing the undersupply of retirement communities, doing its part to fulfil the reported 30,000 retirement units needed every year in this country. 

With this in mind, looking ahead, the JV hopes to continue working on its retirement portfolio – which already spans a gross development value of £250m – to cater for this rising demand.

Katie Fisher, divisional managing director at McCarthy Stone, commented on the importance of the project in the current demographic climate: “Our proposals will help address the local demand for specialist retirement accommodation, providing greater choice for those in later life whilst freeing up the wider housing market for families and first-time buyers further down the chain.” 

She concluded: “We would like to thank local stakeholders and residents for their input and feedback throughout the planning process and we look forward to becoming a part of this community.”