Stewardship: a long-term investment in new communities

A new form of development is emerging: development that responds to the housing crisis but takes into account other demands, including the need to address climate change and the need for healthy and functioning communities.

In this model, which is embraced by some of the most discerning landowners, master planners and developers in the country, the landowner plays a central role in the creation of a new community and the specific principles that guide its development are established. very early. They are respected throughout, for the benefit of all parties involved.

This long-term approach requires significant changes from the previous development model. Legal structures that define the partnership model and the permanent commitment of each of the parties; to a financing structure that could be described as patient capital – a structure in which land or capital is invested for the long term, with objectives that go beyond the purely financial. Returns on investment include not only profit (which invariably increases throughout the development process), but also active involvement from conception to completion and pride in the result.

The master plan begins with the development team but involves collaboration with a multitude of stakeholders and depends on successful collaboration. It responds well to the longer-term approach that is gradually evolving through planning policy – ​​from thirty-year vision documents in local plans to the requirement to conserve biodiversity sites for decades.

The success of such programs must be considered from a social and environmental perspective. The priorities are design and placemaking, the essence of which is communicated in design codes implemented in collaboration with stakeholders.

Blenheim Strategic Partners defines this long-term commitment to its communities as stewardship. The dictionary definition of stewardship, “the prudent and responsible stewardship of something entrusted to one’s care,” perfectly describes our aspirations. Solely the estate is responsible for maintaining Blenheim Palace, a UNSECO World Heritage Site, the owners wish to invest in conservation areas of the future, in the form of new communities.

The concept of stewardship, which has its history in enlightened 19th century building projects such as Bournville, Port Sunlight and Ebenezer Howard’s principles of the garden city, is explored in its modern context in Knight’s 2020 report Frank. Cost and valuepublished in connection with the work of Build better, build great commissions.

The report describes Blenheim Estate Homes’ Park view community as a “kite brand for stewardship”, noting its “highest quality design standards” which “complement and enhance the centuries-old legacy of the World Heritage Site of Blenheim Palace”. The case study notes the “genuine vested interest in the strength of the local community and local economy”, particularly in relation to the provision of affordable housing, local employment programs and the early use of design codes to preserve quality.

Park View demonstrates stewardship on many levels – from the enduring partnership between Blenheim Estate, Pye Homes and Adam Architecture to creating a Community design and code with the appropriate clauses, codes and restrictions. Social infrastructure is of paramount importance: the new community has been designed to blend seamlessly with its neighbors and the mix of house types and tenures has been carefully planned. Half are affordable housing, some of which are rented at a 40% discount instead of the required 20%. Sustainable and responsible local materials have been favored and the community benefits from generous green spaces, walking paths and cycle paths linking the Blenheim estate and areas of natural biodiversity.

The stewardship approach is not unique to Blenheim Estate. It was adopted by other landed estates, including the Duchy of Cornwall at Poundbury and Nansledan, and the Thistlethwayte family at Welborne.

We are already working with landowners and developers across the country to recreate this successful approach. Our unique credentials – which include the largest rural Passivhaus program in Hill Rise and an award-winning model of affordable housing delivery – are something that we hope will inspire new communities across the country.

The conservation areas of the future can only succeed through effective management and thrive through the many benefits that management brings – in the form of community cohesion, longevity in design and construction, and sustainable living – because communities thrive are much more than bricks and mortar.

Michael J. Chiaramonte