Creating communities, not just houses

Creating communities, not just houses by Graham Cherry

With increased pressure on housebuilders to hit government housing targets, it’s easy for developers to concentrate on the numbers and lose focus on the impact that new housing schemes have on communities.

At Countryside, it has always been important to us that our developments offer more than just housing. Our aim is to create places people love – not just for our customers but for residents and businesses in the local area.

This starts at the planning stage: we engage with the local community through consultation events and presentations, meetings and requests for feedback. From the start of construction to completion, we want the community to be involved. At Acton Gardens, focus groups and a dedicated Regeneration Office have kept the community involved with proposals, and everyone is kept up to date via quarterly newsletters, a Community Board, a regeneration website and community events.

Diversity of tenure is also key to ensuring communities are able to thrive in the long term. We work closely with local authorities and independent housing associations to identify and deliver their housing requirements, as well as those of their tenants. To that end, in 2018 we completed 4,295 homes of which 35% were affordable and 19% were private rental sector.

When thinking about creating long-lasting communities, it’s imperative housebuilders understand the importance of green space and landscaped areas. These spaces bring neighbours, friends and families together, helping to improve health and wellbeing, and developing thriving communities.

Countryside has been a leader in design, placemaking and sustainable development for more than a decade and, since 2000, we’ve received 372 awards for our design and sustainability practices.

In 2018, 90% of our schemes contained public green space, heritage features and community facilities for residents and visitors. For example, at Beaulieu, the development has been designed, planned and built around the site’s natural landscape, which was once the parkland surrounding King Henry VIII’s palace. In addition to extensive landscaping, we’re creating a network of footpaths and cycleways, as well as a nature and heritage trail.

It is easy to create beautiful landscaped areas, however they can become an eyesore if not looked after properly. To keep the meadows and parks clean, safe, and attractive for the community, Beaulieu’s abundant variety of green open space is entrusted to the care of national land management charity, The Land Trust. The team will work in partnership with the Beaulieu residents and wider community to take care of the estate parkland indefinitely.

Similarly, at Acton Gardens in South Acton we have transformed the 52-acre site that was once considered a no-go area, with the use of carefully landscaped streets accompanied by a series of parks, communal gardens and podium courtyards. The result is an urban park that not only brings the community together but cultivates a sense of belonging, wellbeing and safety for residents of all ages.

Although Countryside has, in my opinion, always excelled when it comes to caring for communities, there is always room for improvement. 2019 will see the launch of our Social Value Portal, a system that will help us measure our social value and sustainability activities, and the impact on communities.

Our focus on nurturing communities and creating healthy, thriving places is one of the reasons Countryside was included on the FTSE4GOOD index – this accolade reflects our commitment to strong environmental, social and ethical values and processes. However, we will always strive to improve and look for new ways to ensure our developments are not just houses, but places people love.

For more information on our commitment to creating sustainable communities, please read the Sustainability Report here.

Graham Cherry
Chief Executive, Communities, Countryside