I have been exploring our project further and had a couple of conversations to report on.
The first with Tim Byles, ex CEO of Partnerships for Schools and now leader of Cornerstone a development organisation set up to develop mixed use projects with significant community elements usually on sites released from local authorities. I thought it worth discussing the project with Tim to seek his view on both how it might be set up and how we might best find sites. Tim was interested and helpful and had thoughts on a number of things including the following:
The transition from how we currently live now to how and where we end up is critical to our enjoyment of the project. (Quite so).
He thought the project’s connectedness to the world in general important so that it can become a better model than just another retirement village.
Governance: Need robust structures in place for disputes etc. Suggests as simple a structure as possible – existing models of ownership linked to management charge etc should work here.
Funding. Various small developers might be interested to come in. Tim suggested we talk to Osbornes (builders) in case they are interested (see below). The least expensive way to fund it would be through our existing mortgages, a developer would charge more but would obviously come in with development expertise and management skills. Tim thinks we should consider carefully our own capacity to raise money before going to outsiders. There are innovative models for funding emerging, eg the Mill Group are putting together a product based on pension fund money where you rent for the first 5 years and can then buy at 90% of market value.
Types of communal/shared facilities: Think carefully if care is to be involved: Not financially viable as a permanent care arrangement as there are too few households, but drop in type care like Healthcare at Home and other such organisations provide might be more relevant.
Tim thought mixing ages and broadening the profile of residents and tenure may help.
Searching for sites: Try subscribing to Estates Gazette, Tim says a surprising number of potentially relevant sites come up in it. Large ‘problem’ houses, ex care homes etc, might be affordable. If Cornerstone come by relevant sites they will let me know.
Successful examples Tim knows include St Julians near Sevenoaks – effectively a country club with housing discreetly mixed in – based on a large house and grounds.
Planning Authorities may well be sympathetic, particularly the ‘tory shires’.
Different authorities have quite different ways of disposing of property, suggests we go and talk to the property departments at County Council level first then planning departments. Also target three or four authorities and research them a bit first.
I then met with Steve Liddle Executive Director at Osborne Construction. Steve was interested and indeed suggested Osborne could develop or even just fund it for us. The project is a bit small for them though.
He offered to do an appraisal on the scheme so I will send him a sketch and numbers/sizes of dwellings.
He advised that we should beware fixing a planning use designation as ‘housing for the elderly’ because this has a negative impact on value. Also don’t build more than 10 dwellings or we would have to start providing an affordable element. (This seemed a surprisingly low threshold to me).
GP May 2012