Effective placemaking creates its own demand, attracting even more investment that benefits communities and private developers alike, but strategic partnerships are pivotal to making these gains, writes Michael Dong
THE North of England is renowned for its strong community spirit and sense of identity, whether from large cities or small villages. However, as thousands more homes are being delivered across the region to meet demand, developers need to build with improving communities in mind.
For private property developers, particularly those delivering buy-to-let (BTL) and private rented sector (PRS) schemes, an ongoing commitment to serving the local areas where they are building should be a core part of their offering.
Maintaining a strong focus on improving the standard of living for Northern communities is an imperative approach with an abundance of benefits. Stronger investment into the wider regeneration of neighbourhoods can lead to greater demand for stock, higher rental yields and the more opportunities to deliver further schemes.
For residents, the ability to access a variety of new amenities that make working, living and socialising available in one place can be instrumental in making them feel part of a community.
Supporting local communities
Property development in the North should serve a greater purpose than to achieve quick financial gain, with the overall aim to improve community living and market the region as a more desirable place to live and work. This, in turn, will appeal to talented individuals, encouraging greater investment levels and securing a prosperous, economic future for the region.
Enhancing neighbourhoods is also a great way to galvanise initiatives such as the Northern Powerhouse, which aims to position the region as an economic equal to London and the South. Positioning the North as a great place to live, and to invest in, is a key part of this drive.
Undoubtedly, the property and job markets in the North are booming, and this is evident in the house price growth of strategic cities, such as Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds. Though, the key to unlocking potential even further is to encourage private house builders to enforce placemaking.
The concept is a long-term commitment to improving the overall quality of communities and regions; a vision that must be shared by house builders. When bringing new schemes to fruition, the risk of capital loss is always present. However, a successful place to buy and sell homes is an area that people perceive as being desirable – which makes focusing on developing communities as a whole even more pertinent.
Initial research into individual towns is important in order to gain a critical insight into what improvements are required. For example, many projects must be in keeping with an area’s Local Plan, to meet the correct needs or aesthetic of the neighbourhood. Capitalising on an area’s assets and potential by proposing developments that enhance an environment can not only help to improve the quality of life for residents, it could help to improve the wider perceptions of a place.
Without question, strategic partnerships are always going to be pivotal when placemaking, since the process must be a collaboration between developers, their creative partners, planning consultants and local authorities. The private sector should seek proactive alliances with local supply chains, with the primary aim being to benefit residents in the areas where they are developing.
The private sector can encourage placemaking on a national level by responding to the country’s housing needs. For example, there are currently more than one million people on the waiting list for social homes. Therefore, alongside the BTL and PRS schemes being delivered, it’s vital to build homes that are genuinely affordable and will help to tackle the UK’s housing crisis.
At Investar Property Group, we recognise this need. Our Melody Gardens development in Salford is currently under construction and will see the delivery of 58 affordable homes for Places for People. Planning for the scheme was finalised in collaboration with Places for People in order to create a new sense of community, while directly responding to the city’s housing needs.
Encourage tactical planning
Moving forward, the key is to encourage initial, tactical planning when delivering new homes across the North. House builders begin projects with a vision, and greater research into individual areas will determine if that idea aids an area’s growth and will improve the overall quality of life for residents.
Building homes that genuinely benefit communities is a win-win situation. Effective placemaking can increase the demand for stock, which attracts greater levels of investment and talent. This will then provide more opportunity and capital for property developers to continue building the homes that the UK desperately needs.
Michael Dong is the chief executive of Investar Property Group