Developing rural housing

Blending community priorities with business needs

How Kent-based developer Paul Browne Homes put affordable rural housing at the heart of its latest development.

When Paul Browne Homes was planning its latest development, it required close cooperation with the local community to blend its own commercial considerations with residents’ needs.

The result is a 10-unit site, located in the Kent village of Aldington, which has affordable housing at its heart.

“An estate agent approached us about the land just over 2 years ago” says owner Paul Browne. “We said we’d buy it subject to planning permission, and the council said it wanted to see an affordable element as part of the plans.”

That element became a core part of the development, which is built on old pastureland in the heart of the village. Four of the houses have been pre-sold to a housing association; 2 are being sold as shared ownership and 2 are classed as affordable housing.

Respecting community concerns

There were some challenges that needed to be overcome to get to this stage, however.

Along with the affordable housing requirements, there was an element of local opposition at the beginning of the project. Residents were uneasy about the potential impact on the village.

However, Paul worked with the council to create a development plan that satisfied its demands and acknowledged the concerns among the local community, all while still being commercially viable for the business.

“We met with the councillors and explained how we would keep the impact of the build to a minimum” says Paul.

“The local community thought we were the kind of big developers that just blitz sites, but when we had a face to face conversation they realised we weren’t going to be disruptive. We were just going to build 10 homes which would enhance the village.”

Financing the project

When it came to funding the development, Paul says he didn’t hesitate to come to Barclays. The business has a longstanding relationship with the bank and has been a customer since day one.

“Barclays knows us, and it understands the ins and outs of how we operate” says Paul.

For this project, Barclays provided financing for the majority of the build cost, with Paul Browne Homes putting in the funds needed to cover the remainder and buy the land.

“We’ve known our Real Estate Relationship Director Martyn for 7 years now and he’s always been really helpful. We can reach him straight away, and he’s able to find financial solutions for us.”

Having a positive impact

As well as adding to the supply of affordable homes, the project benefited the area in other ways too – including supporting local employment.

Paul Browne Homes tends to build small developments within a 20-30 mile radius of Ashford and uses around 30 local sub-contractors that it has built-up long-term relationships with.

As for the future, Paul is clear on the next steps for the business. Rather than expand to take on increasingly bigger projects, the aim is to stay rooted in the local community and take on one site at a time.

“Nothing is confirmed as yet, but we’ve got a very good idea of where we’re building next” he says.

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