By Steven Simpson, MD, Cruden Homes East
AFTER the shut-downs, materials shortages and lack of skilled workers that have challenged the housebuilding industry over the last 18 months, Scotland is going to have to play catch-up in order to meet essential house building targets. But in the rush to build, there has to be a recognition of what it takes to make a great development.
Life has changed and the sorts of places we create will have to change too if we are to meet the needs of life after the pandemic.
It’s not just that homes now have to be flexible enough to meet the changing patterns of living and working that have evolved at a rapid pace, but successive lockdowns have shown us that we need strong communities too and that we can’t just leave these to chance.
There’s a responsibility on developers to create new developments that provide benefits for wider neighbourhoods and not just for the residents of the new homes within them. That can mean providing safe walking and cycling routes, as well as landscaped green spaces that everyone can use, but it can also involve developers making solid investment in communities as well.
In Longniddry, where we are part of a consortium with plans to deliver 450 new homes, we are creating a sustainable environment where people can live and work, spend leisure time and walk to local amenities, and we are enhancing the community through infrastructure improvements and thoughtful design in order to integrate the new homes with the existing village. But there needs to be a commitment on a human level too, so we’ve been getting involved with the local community – we’ve helped the Scouts to upgrade their hall, supported the local youth football team and we’re providing wildlife corridors that link with the wider countryside for all to enjoy.
In nearby Aberlady, where we are also building, we have supported the local community in many ways – we’ve assisted with the restoration of the war memorial, contributed to Aberlady in Bloom and hosted site visits for the local Beavers group. We’ve also run a number of initiatives with the local primary school, from art competitions, to refurbishing their reading room, providing prizes for fundraising activities and, most recently, sponsoring the parent council’s charity cookery book.
And when Queensberry Properties, our joint venture with Buccleuch Property, won the ‘Best Apartment’ category for our Bonnington Mill development at the recent Scottish Home Awards, we didn’t just gain the accolade because of the design and finish of one particular home. It was because Queensberry placed a priority on retaining the original industrial heritage of the site and creating a flourishing new community for residents, while at the same preserving the adjacent riverbank as an untouched natural backdrop which is enjoyed by the many users of the Capital’s Water of Leith Walkway.
It is this sort of wider focus on what it takes to create thriving, flourishing neighbourhoods that makes the difference between simply building houses and creating a place where even those surrounding the development feel positive about its contribution to their area.
Demand for new build homes in Scotland remains strong and because geographical constraints are now less of an issue than they were, semi-rural locations with good connectivity and a strong sense of community are really popular with buyers, who are re-evaluating the way they live and work.
We’ve seen that in East Lothian which, with its proximity to the coast, has become a top choice with homebuyers. But it is happening in cities too, where people are returning once again to find renewed vibrancy and here too developers have a role to play in making our cities great places to live. New developments can’t ignore the sentiments of established neighbourhoods, they’ve got to improve the lives of passers-by and local residents as well as delighting the people who actually live in them.