...Can Benefit Local Communities
Whitehall’s call for housebuilders to demonstrate clearly the economic and social benefits that developments can bring to communities is being exemplified by Linden Homes. The award-winning housebuilder implemented a standard community engagement policy last year to cement its involvement with the communities where it builds new homes; recruiting employees and sourcing materials locally, as well as generous funding for infrastructure and neighbourhood projects.
The strategy complements the recent national shake-up of planning policy which aims to encourage construction, jobs and economic growth by giving housebuilders greater leeway to make proposals viable.
The shift led to the Department of Communities and Local Government’s director of planning, Shona Dunn, advising the House Building Federation’s planning conference: “You need to invest time in making local authorities and planners understand the economic benefits of development. This is obvious but sometimes a connection is missed.”
Linden Homes Divisional Managing Director Tom Nicholson, who is responsible for group special projects, said: "When we say that we work with local communities, we truly mean it: from our initial engagement during the planning process, through the construction phase, to the day we hand over the keys to a property.
“We are fulfilling an array of local needs – for employment, housing, infrastructure, transport and a diverse range of extra community benefits.
“We welcome the government’s call for housebuilders to demonstrate clearly how they are achieving this, but for us it will be business as usual, continuing a policy we have successfully followed for many years.”
Case study – Ogwell Brook, Devon
Ogwell Brook is a showcase for how Linden Homes brings a raft of benefits to local communities.
The numbers at a glance:
The biggest boost is from the 73 jobs on site which have been created for local people - almost all for subcontractors based in Devon and Cornwall. 11 young apprentices have been taken on too, tackling the building industry’s skills shortage by learning trades such as bricklaying, plastering and carpentry.
Proving the local benefit, so far 95 per cent of buyers of the new homes have moved from within 15 miles of Ogwell Brook, with the remaining five per cent all having family links nearby.
The direct financial investment will reach further still, as the New Homes Bonus will generate £1,021,451 over six years for the district council to spend as it sees fit, as well as a further £255,363 paid towards Devon County Council.
Other funding includes a £100,000 contribution to local bus services, plus a bus shelter and road loop near the development’s main entrance. A cycle way is benefitting from £90,000 support on top of £50 vouchers for each household to put towards buying a bicycle. A full local public transport travel pack has also been produced. A contribution towards off-site public open space has been made, in addition to payments to the area’s education provision for every dwelling at Ogwell Brook with two or more bedrooms.
Close involvement with the local community has been important too: Linden Homes donated high visibility vests for pupils walking to class at Canada Hill School, it sponsored Newton Abbot’s annual music and beer festival, Abbotsfest, and a residents’ association tombola for the Queen’s diamond jubilee was supported.
Seeing the work in action
Local Member of Parliament for Newton Abbot, Anne-Marie Morris and Councillor Jeremy Christophers, Leader of Teignbridge Council, recently visited the site and were both impressed by what they saw.
Anne-Marie Morris, Member of Parliament for Newton Abbot, commented:
“I’m pleased to have seen the Linden Homes development for myself. It’s important that we ensure there is enough affordable housing in this great part of the country, so I’m glad to see that 56 affordable homes have been included within the development. I also welcome the local jobs the building works have provided. The opportunity for our young people to take on apprenticeships is a valuable starting place for their lives ahead.”
Councillor Jeremy Christophers, Leader of Teignbridge Council, said:
“We are very lucky in Teignbridge - it’s a beautiful part of the country – which makes it all the more difficult when we have to look at the need for new homes. I meet many families whose children, now grown up, still live at home because they can’t afford their own place – not a great way to start their adult lives.
“I think we need to acknowledge what positive development can bring: affordable homes, jobs, apprenticeships and significant financial contributions to the communities of Teignbridge. This all helps address many of the issues we face locally.
“Teignbridge has made a commitment to making housing a top priority and we are looking at different, new and innovative ways of doing this. Every planning application will be determined on its merits, but we need to be thinking more carefully about the wider community benefits.”
For further information, contact Emma Mackay on 01626 356666 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
28 March 2013
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