Nick Waugh: New towns meet housing need and changing property demands
Nick Waugh, commercial director at Buccleuch Property, which is jointly developing Shawfair, argues that new towns are best placed to adapt to residents’ changing needs.
Scotland plans to deliver 100,000 new homes by 2032 to meet strong demand for housing. However, creating great new places with their own identities, where people really want to live, requires more than houses. Successful large-scale residential developments also need a mix of local amenities, shops, workplaces, schools, public spaces and different housing types.
Creating a new town from scratch inevitably takes time and a high degree of planning adaptability to ensure both current and future residents have a tailored environment that best suits their needs. When we and Midlothian Council started creating Shawfair, a new town six miles south of Edinburgh in partnership with Midlothian Council, we had not foreseen a global pandemic resulting in lockdowns that halted house building.
Now, as restrictions continue to lift, we are all witnessing the economic impacts of COVID-19 and what the ramifications could be for housebuilders, residents, buyers and sellers. More time at home has encouraged people to re-evaluate their homes. The number of houses changing hands rose to the highest level on record in June, with 213,120 sales registered with HMRC.
The desire to live in a city has waned amongst some. For example, one in seven Londoners wants to move following the pandemic. Understandably, private spaces such as gardens and being close to parks have become important factors when thinking about desired living situations. As well as 4,000 new homes, Shawfair will have eight miles of cycle paths, sports pitches and allotments.
While our lifestyles are shifting, proximity to a railway station remains important for leisure and work. Many of us will continue to commute by train or travel into a city for shopping and leisure. Edinburgh Waverley is just 15 minutes from Shawfair, meaning residents will have the best of both worlds, with a garden and more living space; while being able to quickly and easily access a cosmopolitan city with world heritage status.
We are very conscious of climate change and we hope home buyers will be attracted to Shawfair’s ambitious plans to be carbon zero. A key element of this is our £20m district heating network project with Midlothian Council, with significant funding from Scottish Government, with significant funding from the Scottish Government. This means more than 2,500 homes being sustainably heated, saving 2,000 tonnes of CO2 annually - the equivalent of taking 1,200 petrol or diesel cars off the road.
In creating the new town of Shawfair - with Midlothian Council and housebuilders Bellway, Dandara, Mactaggart & Mickel, Miller and Stewart Milne Homes - we are keen to engage with local residents. This involves regular dialogue with community councils and other groups to determine local needs and aspirations for services and facilities. This is why we support the efforts of local groups like Danderhall and District Guerrilla Gardeners, a team of volunteers working tirelessly to improve the area by clearing weeds without pesticides.
It is not enough to build homes on a site and call it a town. Communities need facilities and amenities in order to thrive, requiring organisations like ours to do everything possible to attract businesses. Our work in this area is ongoing, and we already have a commitment from David Lloyd to create a new purpose-built gym with cafe, swimming pool and tennis courts in the new town. We have more exciting plans for the future, so watch this space.
Property experts Zoopla says the surging demand for homes will last well into 2022 and the trend towards a more balanced lifestyle looks set to stay. With many reconsidering how they want to live, work and play; it is new towns like Shawfair that are best placed to adapt to people’s changing needs.