Four things to consider for small housing developments

(Posted: 29/10/2018)

Steve Parrington, Managing Director of Construction, Liberty Group

“Solving the housing crisis is the biggest domestic policy challenge for a generation.”

These are the words of our Prime Minister, Theresa May. Challenge is the right word. And it is a collective one that cannot be achieved by big developers alone.

The above comment was made ahead of the widely welcomed announcement that the borrowing cap for councils will be scrapped, freeing up a potential £1bn of capacity to fund tens of thousands of new homes.

Across the country there are hundreds if not thousands of small pockets of land. I believe these sites are a vital part of this solution to our housing challenge and should be the focus of some of this borrowing. They do however come with higher overheads and unique challenges. So here are four things to consider when making a big impact through small sites.

1. Location, location, location

These pieces of land, often within existing housing stock, can make the infrastructure difficult in terms of getting machinery in and out in constrained spaces. But it’s worth taking on the sites that other developers may avoid. At Liberty we have a model which ensures we can successfully navigate these constraints to deliver successful schemes on small plots of land.

Our expertise lies in working with commercial clients to tackle these difficult sites to make them attractive and viable, delivering high quality new homes on sites that may otherwise have been left empty.

2. It’s good to talk

Communication with residents when developing sites of this type is key. What will any potential short term disruption mean for their community in the long term? And how are you making the most of a scrap of land that has lain derelict for years or even decades?

We must understand the requirements of existing stock and work closely with residents throughout the build to ensure they know what’s happening at every stage. We also work with local schools to ensure children understand the dangers of construction sites as part of our commitment to the highest levels of health and safety.

3. The wider benefits

We all know how desperately needed new affordable homes are but what about the wider benefits? The social aspect of development should be an important part of commitment to improving lives. Developing infill sites can have a huge regeneration uplift, with these sites often magnets for antisocial behaviour, removing eye sores and supporting the creation of vibrant communities.

4. Let’s work together

Sharing expertise and collaborating with the right partners will make these small developments a success.

Examples of successful schemes undertaken by Liberty include a series of small developments from one to 12 homes in Eccles on four difficult sites all with challenging ground conditions to manage. Through our expertise and working closely with our client, we delivered 19 high quality homes.

Working with Jigsaw in Hesketh Bank, we are also progressing a development of 10 homes on the grounds of an old piece of land used as a small garden centre. This faced major issues around overgrown trees and bushes, unsafe structures, asbestos, nesting birds and major service diversions. We worked closely with Jigsaw to find solutions that satisfied all stakeholders, from the egologists to the planners, with the scheme now able to progress this year.

Our aim is to continue to build strong relationships with partnerships to deliver larger schemes and offer land inclusive deals, where Liberty doesn’t just make the sites viable, but identifies the land and develops the site layout and house types to offer the full package to RP’s and the private sector.

Tackling the housing crisis, the challenge of a generation, needs innovation, partnership working and a commitment to developing the most challenging of sites. If we commit to this, we can meet the future needs of communities and ensure that everyone can benefit from high quality, affordable homes.

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