Housing that creates communities

Delays and unpredictable outcomes from the planning process are a perennial problem for housebuilders. Since 2003, Thakeham has been delivering quality homes across the south of England, championing communities and sustainable living.

Rob Boughton, founder and chief executive of the housebuilder, says that focusing on delivering plans for quality homes and places is vital to ensuring planners, councillors and local residents welcome new development. “Planning is the single biggest blocker to new homes,” he says. “It can be costly getting developments to planning stage with no guarantee of approval, despite working closely throughout with local authority planning officers. Overcoming these issues is crucial if we are to provide much-needed accommodation, of all tenures.”

Thakeham follows a tenure-blind approach. This means all homes, including social housing, are built to high standards for the whole community, free of dividing lines based on background or affordability. In addition, “a mix of tenure and property size and type attracts a wider range of people and a richer, more sustainable community”, Boughton says.

He is conscious that buyers are not only concerned with the quality and design of their home, but also their surroundings and amenities. Thakeham puts emphasis on thinking through what ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ infrastructure is required, bearing in mind it will need to serve for many years to come. “I think that this long-term view is important, and improving infrastructure needs to be at the forefront of new developments,” Boughton says.

This approach can help counter objections that new developments place pressure on existing infrastructure. “Our ‘infrastructure-first’ approach is apparent on all sites,” Boughton says. “For example, at our Woodgate development in Pease Pottage, West Sussex, a new primary school for the village opened only 18 months after the first completion. It is also home to St Catherine’s Hospice, a cafe and a community-owned shop.”

Community consultation and engagement is at the heart of Thakeham’s developments. The Pease Pottage project – a strategic partnership with Plunkett UK, a charity supporting community initiatives and small businesses – saw the creation of a community trust to run the shop.

“Rather than the traditional model where the shop comes on the end of development – when patronage has gone elsewhere – we’re delivering that facility, and the community are running it themselves,” Boughton says. “It creates interaction between people and an enhanced community.”

Thakeham is also keen to respond to the public’s environmental concerns. It is one of the UK’s first housebuilders in the SME Climate Hub to join the United Nations’ ‘Race to Zero’ campaign, and has pledged that its new homes will be net zero by 2025.

Boughton concludes that Thakeham’s mission is to “create amazing places to live in for present and future generations, because we take a holistic approach to placemaking and put the community’s needs at the forefront of our developments.

“I want to create somewhere where people can send their kids to a great local school, then next to the school is a village green and a shop and cafe, where people are meeting their neighbours and creating a community.”

Providing facilities alongside quality homes is vital in gaining public support and planning consent, a welcome step-change as we look to tackle the housing crisis head-on. But perhaps even more important is the impact of this approach on the communities it creates – integrated, diverse and coalesced around a place they’re proud to call home.

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