LABM speaks to Shelagh Grant from The Housing Forum about the organisation’s Development Partnership Forum for the South East and South West, taking place on the 16th September at The Rochester Corn Exchange, where local authorities will have the opportunity to go on a site tour of the award-winning Rochester Riverside development.
As the UK emerges from the pandemic, it’s great to see industry events returning to live venues again. After over a year of hosting conferences via webinars, The Housing Forum’s next Development Partnerships Forum for the South East and South West will be held at The Rochester Corn Exchange, Northgate, The Precinct, in Rochester and marks a welcome return to face to face events. The housing sector is a vibrant industry which thrives on networking, sharing best practice and working in partnership, and that’s what The Housing Forum is seeking to promote through its events.
The Rochester Corn Exchange is run by Medway Council, part of the Kent Housing Group which is partnering with The Housing Forum to deliver the event. The property was upgraded about a year and a half ago and was just about to be completed when the pandemic hit. The partnership forum will be one of the first events to be hosted in the newly renovated building. David Harris, Head of Planning at the council, will be giving a presentation on the local authorities’ vision for the Rochester Riverside community, transport connectivity, amenity, design and placemaking.
Shelagh says the purpose behind holding the event in Rochester is the ability to offer a walking tour around the award-winning Rochester Riverside development. Rochester Riverside is a flagship regeneration scheme being delivered by The Hyde Group, Countryside Properties and architects BPTW. The completed Phase 1B of the development received the accolade of ‘Winner of Winners’ at the Housing Design Awards. Phase 1B of the scheme features 131 homes and forms part of an overall masterplan which when complete will provide over 1,400 homes, as well as 8,000sqm of commercial space. The project is also a recipient of the Building for a Healthy Life Award in recognition of the quality of open green spaces, being created as part of the development.
A fundamental component of achieving successful outcomes on projects like this is partnership working and collaboration, a point highlighted by Guy Slocombe, Chief Executive Officer at Hyde, who commented after receiving the Housing Design Award: “Rochester Riverside is all about partnership and working together to deliver an outstanding community; one which continues to be extremely popular with buyers and renters alike. I am very proud of our team who continue to work at pace to deliver these much-needed homes… The quality is second to none and I am looking forward to seeing the development grow over the coming years.”
Barry Cummins, National Development Director of Homes England concurred: “This project is a fantastic example of collaborative working between Homes England, Countryside, Hyde and Medway Council that realises the Government’s ambition to deliver quality homes where they are needed most.”
As mentioned, a key element of The Housing Forum’s third development conference will be the site tour, which will enable local authorities, housing associations and developers to take a look round Rochester Riverside and hear from the key stakeholders involved in delivering the project. Shelagh says, “it’s a fantastic opportunity”, as event attendees will be able to experience first-hand the scope of the development and the hope is it will inspire others in the sector to consider replicating the scheme elsewhere. Shelagh continues: “It’s a really good example of a long-term public private partnership that’s community-based.”
The development is being delivered over seven phases, so securing community buy-in has been essential. Shelagh says: “The partners had a consultation strategy and held many practical sessions, which included walking tours and viewings with local groups to understand the local identity, history and the built form of the local area.”
Rochester has a rich heritage and delivering a sympathetic new scheme that didn’t detract from the historic city centre and Medway dockyards has been hugely important. BPTW’s Partner Chris Bath says that in addition to “responding to local housing needs through a rich mix of housing types and sizes…the project has also helped shape a real sense of community, by reconnecting Rochester’s city centre to the river, and in turn opening up this unique riverfront for use and enjoyment by both new residents and the wider community.”
Chris Bath will be speaking at the Partnership Forum covering master planning for homes and the environment, whilst Mike Finch, Land and Planning Director (South East) at The Hyde Group and Tom Morrissey, Development Director at Countryside, will be discussing how partnership working can deliver successful communities, as well as talking about the key elements for delivering mixed and balanced communities of affordable housing.
Shelagh adds: “The Rochester Riverside development was a vacant site, quite dramatic in its form, lots of little creeks and an area where you would have had very small industries at one time. They’ve been able to incorporate some of the natural features into the new development. It is close to local amenities, with good train links. The train takes only 37 minutes to get into central London, so it’s well cited and it compliments, does not disturb in anyway the older mediaeval and Victorian Rochester.”
The Development Partnership Forum will also be covering other projects across the South East and South West. For example, Shelagh says: “We’ve got Paul Nicholls, CEO of the Real-Group, who will be discussing a Passivhaus project in Bristol.” Paul will be talking about the challenges surrounding the Passivhaus concept and its perception, and where it sits within the zero carbon agenda, highlighting the Bristol Luckwell Road project. Shelagh adds: “Bristol seems to be one of those cities taking the lead in pushing the low carbon agenda and really promoting projects like this and other low carbon schemes and keen to share best practice. I think in the industry generally people do want to move towards decarbonisation and introduce new technologies. It’s about working out what the impact is going to be, not just in terms of costs and design, but on residents and the way the people live.”
Local authorities are in investigative mode at the moment, they know that decarbonisation and the low carbon agenda is important, and they want to find out what works well and what could work better…says Shelagh, adding: “I think what we are doing with the partnership forums helps people to understand the routes they can take. Organisations in the industry want to see what other people are doing, and they want best practice advice to guide and inform them when making decisions.”
On projects there are so many key factors to get right to ensure long-term success aside from creating new homes to meet local housing requirements, such as ensuring provision for the necessary infrastructure to support the local communities’ needs, from transport connectivity to education and healthcare facilities, public realm spaces, to local amenities. Shelagh says: “There’s an ever increasing impetus on getting that right and I do think Rochester’s a great example. Working through the pandemic, what we found people saying more and more is that the spaces between houses are as important as the houses themselves, you have to get the public realm right, particularly for children, the opportunity for open space, it doesn’t have to be huge, but it needs to be integrated and well thought through. These things need to be sorted out much earlier in the process.”
Another good example is Canterbury Riverside, and Joanne Flaherty, Project Director at Bouygues, will be discussing this project at the Development Partnership Forum event, talking about the modular approach to the mixed residential site, which includes student accommodation.
Karen Goldup, Head of Development and Sales at Coastline Housing, a housing association based in the South West, will also be speaking at the event, discussing how to deliver quality through partnership working and talking about the specific local demographics and affordability challenges in Cornwall, highlighting successful schemes the housing provider has delivered.
The event offers a comprehensive programme where local authorities, housing associations and their developer partners will have the opportunity to hear from their peers, exchange ideas with each other in person, share best practice and inspire more within the industry to deliver ambitious projects.
For more details and to book your place visit: https://housingforum.org.uk/events/development-partnership-forums/development-partnership-forum-3-focus-on-south-east-and-south-west/
Header image shows the Rochester Riverside development. Image ©BPTW