The Main Character
Running a family business is hard enough, running a family business with a legacy in developing exciting residential schemes on sites in and around London brings a whole new level of complexity to your day. Even with 80 years of experience and a new generation of management successfully creating a new London office to be run alongside their existing Yorkshire office, some business opportunities present extraordinary challenges that need to be overcome. In these instances, the key to success is understanding and creating value-driven relationships.
Ye Corner, a residential project sited in the Watford area within a short walking distance from Bushey Station. The complexity the site presents comes from several sources. Firstly, the site was designated as Employment Land in the local plan and, although being a single freehold, it came with a series of staggered leases to multiple occupiers. As most of these occupiers were within the Motor industry, site contamination was inevitable.
On two sides the site was overlooked by a terrace of three-storey Victorian retail units with residential flats above. Along the other boundaries, were a Grade II listed building, a locally listed building, and more overlooking residential properties. The residential properties to the rear of the site are set approximately one-storey higher than the ground level of our site. With only one narrow vehicle access to the site and shared access at the higher level, this was one of the most challenging sites we had worked on together, and as such the brief was set with caution by our experienced client who needed to make a good offer to secure the site.
The initial brief was to try to get a series of small townhouses on the site, targeting six units or so which would have created a reasonable Gross Development Value based on the freeholder’s expectations. Through a detailed analysis of the site and surroundings, we felt that there was a great opportunity to excel the brief and create greater value for all involved. While managing the client’s expectations and utilising our knowledge of the planning system in collaboration with the rest of the team, we were able to carefully craft an initial scheme of nine apartments which led to the site being successfully secured for our experienced family-run developers.
Once the site was successfully secured, the real work began. We engaged the local authority in Pre-Application negotiations and through developing sunlight studies, reviewing key relationships with the neighbouring buildings, transportation needs and the design quality of internal and external spaces, we were able to increase the density to fifteen, one and two-bedroom, apartments.
The apartments were provided with dual aspects creating naturally lit living areas. Each home has its own private amenity space, screened to prevent overlooking into and out of the properties. Externally, the shared space was carefully considered to allow pedestrian access through the site, while trees and planting helped to create natural boundaries between public and private spaces. The mews-style design used a material-pallet of stock-brick, timber and zinc, helping to reduce the visual impact of the building mass. The hard work and investment that was undertaken by the team led to a well-deserved Planning Approval for our client and a much greater Financial Planning Gain on Gross Development Value than was anticipated.
Because of all the careful consideration during the design stages, the high quality of the project response was further rewarded by being shortlisted for ‘Best Regeneration Project’ alongside monster regeneration schemes by major house builders at the London Build awards.
The Final Twist
The efforts of the team resulted in an agreed sale (or trade) of the site along with the associated Planning Permission. But never satisfied, we agreed with the client a strategy to develop an overage option as part of the sale and used our expertise to gain a further four apartments on top of the approved fifteen through a second planning approval, maximising the value available from what was once a local eyesore.