There is no question that we need more housing in the UK. It is also vital that new housing can be the centrepiece of a sustainable lifestyle for the people who live in it, meaning it is critically important that the other ingredients of that lifestyle – access to work, schools and other amenities – are in place. Equally, while the drivers for commercial development may be a bit different, the shops, restaurants, hotels and offices we are delivering are the building blocks of future prosperity, so it is also essential they arrive in the right places, in the right form.
Land is lying derelict for too long, passed over as too complex to develop. Proposed developments get bogged down in planning because they lack buy-in from communities and politicians, either because the design is poor, the proposed quality is low, or people do not believe that the promises will be delivered. As a result, nothing happens and the potential for new communities, employment and social value remains untapped.
Urban&Civic was established to disrupt the market norm, and our commitment to early investment, quality, great community and stakeholder engagement and to high environmental standards means we are getting on with it at an ever-increasing rate.
Our Rugby development, after ceasing to be an operated BT site, had been idle for nine years before we began commercial development. We fully support the Government’s ambition that land lying idle, which could provide homes and employment, is brought into use as fast as possible. The pinch-points in the development process often delay delivery by months and years and we knew that the combination of access to land and the planning system are major factors limiting SME housebuilders from competing effectively. We believe Urban&Civic’s approach and expertise as Master Developer not only allow us to take on more complex sites but also create a serviced land product which ensures a level playing field for housebuilders of all sizes.
In 2017, we decided to begin measuring and reporting how long land that we are now developing has been idle, and what proportion of land we have acquired now has outline planning consent or is in development. These first benchmarks will enable us to review and target progress in coming years.
|Average number of years land has been idle before being bought by U&C||Number of years post acquisition before U&C commences development of a site||of land with outline consent or in development|
Alconbury Weald aerial view
RadioStation Rugby aerial view
One of the keys to our accelerated development path is successful stakeholder engagement. Good relationships with people near our sites is crucial to rapid planning consent and keeping to programme during the building process. We invest heavily in communication and consultation and have sought to measure the effect of this in terms of planning application and consents.
1 Metric captures the number of consents applied for and granted within a given time period (FY 2017). Therefore, success rate is not the absolute success rate.
We also believe that building relationships based on trust with our partners is essential to rapid and smooth development, particularly where projects are brought on over many years. This is why we place a strong emphasis on continuing to engage and support the people who live and work on or near our sites as development matures.
Wintringham Public Consultation
Mark Pawsey MP on site at RadioStation Rugby.
Job creation and economic growth
Development can make an important contribution to local and regional economic prosperity, both during the construction phase and once in use. We have been keen to understand the impact our schemes have in creating jobs and enabling growth in the economy. In 2017, we built a more quantitative picture of our impact, measuring employment creation at one of our major sites, Alconbury. Ultimately, we want to capture the impact all our schemes have over time, in terms of direct and indirect economic effects.
The approach we take at Alconbury Weald is emblematic of our focus on making places that create and reinforce economic opportunity. In 2017, our team continued to support a wide range of activities on site, from the establishment of a new community shop to the opening of Ermine Street Academy, the primary school on site at which young residents of Alconbury will start the long journey to employment. For young people nearing the end of their education, we supported “Inspire”, an event at the Enterprise Campus at which 14–19 year olds met employers and professionals from businesses based on site, and learned more about the jobs and work experience available at Alconbury. Case studies on Alconbury projects EDGE and iMET give more detail on how investment in the long term economic future of our sites paid dividends in 2017.
July 2017 saw the opening of the 357-bedroom Hampton by Hilton Hotel1, built on a two-acre disused car park at Stansted Airport. Stansted Airport is now the place of work for 11,600 people and serves over 24 million passengers, so modern infrastructure is vital if the airport is to function and flourish. The hotel Urban&Civic developed is an important new part of that infrastructure.
Our professional team applied modern methods of construction and whole life costings to create a design that combined ease of build and maintenance, good sustainability standards, reduced capital expenditure and enabled tight delivery timescales. Main contractors McAleer and Rushe sourced building materials locally, used local subcontractors, and employed local people across all packages of work, despite there being no section 106 obligation relating to skills training and jobs. No construction waste went to landfill – with 99.9 per cent of waste either recycled or reused on site and 0.1 per cent was sent to energy from waste. The build has achieved the BREEAM Very Good rating and Hilton awarded the scheme the highest marks for quality ever achieved for a similar brand in its portfolio. Now operational the hotel has generated 75 full-time jobs across a range of sectors and has an established local supply chain.
jobs created through the
construction lifecycle at Alconbury
1 On 16 October 2017, we sold the Hampton by Hilton Hotel at Stansted Airport.
CASE STUDY - EDGE
Going to EDGE was a really positive experience. From the moment I walked into the EDGE shop I was made to feel welcome. Christine spent time talking to me and discussing my past experience and skills. She helped bring my CV up to date and when I left, I was feeling much more confident. She said I wouldn’t be out of work for another month and she was right.
CASE STUDY - iMET
Productivity is becoming the catchword in Westminster. A key part of that productivity is skills, and in this part of the country making the most out of the wonderful resources we have here is key. Training is a vital part of that, together with an increase in apprenticeships. iMET will enable local businesses to take that to a much higher level.
Efficient design, environment and sustainability
The speed and scale that we achieve in development unlocks the social value in our sites, but we ensure that this does not come at the expense of quality and sustainability. A responsible approach to energy, waste, transport, water and other environmental topics underlies our development model and drives the way we design, commission and build.
These priorities came to the fore in many ways during 2017. At Newark we used geotextiles and earth instead of traditional retaining structures to improve visual impact for residents and maximise the re-use of material on site. Whilst at Alconbury we have already laid out the cricket pitch to give it time to bed in for play in 2019.
At Rugby, we have focused strongly on sustainable drainage where we started by carrying out an earthworks study ahead of the delivery of the first parcel, to ensure that all spoil would be retained on site. Our surface water drainage strategy introduced new discharge points into existing water courses. This meant directing surface water through ecology corridors such as wetlands and ponds, and better use of highways corridors to retain water, using gravel ditches and oversized pipes in a mixed mode of design solutions.
This approach will enable us to minimise environmental impact over the lifecycle of the development. Ultimately, we believe that by going beyond simple compliance and a single solution, our approach will also add value to landscaping, placemaking and the ecology.
Elsewhere, sustainability considerations came together with modern methods of construction at every stage of design and construction. In February, Redrow Homes launched its Alconbury Weald offer, bringing sustainable timber frame homes to the development. Redrow was the first major UK housebuilder to score a maximum rating of “three trees” from the WWF with 99.83 percent of timber sustainability sourced and offering a low carbon, reliable and efficient replacement for concrete blocks.
The cricket pitch at Alconbury Weald conceals an underground SuDS system
Sustainable urban drainage running through an ecology corridor at Rugby
Travel planning is a key component of our approach to sustainability, making sure that people living and working on our sites can access what they need easily and efficiently. One example is our Transport Strategy at Alconbury Weald, which includes free bus tickets and vouchers for cycle kits for every new household, as part of a plan to build a culture of walking, cycling and use of public transport. It is an approach we developed with Cambridgeshire County Council, with agreed transport interventions as the development unfurls, incentivising us to work with the business and residential community to minimise car use and promote sustainable travel options.
In 2017 we surveyed how residents and businesses on site are travelling to see what effect these measures are having at Alconbury, and help shape future interventions. We learned that nearly 70 per cent of respondents get to educational activities on foot; that nearly a third of households have no bicycles – and could benefit from our voucher scheme; and encouragingly, 35 per cent of people now car share to access leisure activities. The data is being used to plan the frequency and routes of buses, the locations of three cycle hire hubs being set up in the first phase of development, and to inform car sharing and further public transport initiatives. Meanwhile, Urban&Civic’s Communities Team has been holding events with local partners to encourage cycling and walking, by communicating the many benefits of active travel, from better health to reducing carbon emissions and less noise, pollution and traffic on the development.
Alconbury residents travel survey:
|get to educational activities on foot||car share to access leisure activities|
Ermine Street Church Academy