While several companies will be looking back on 2020 and reflecting on the devastating impacts Covid-19 has had on business, Tonbridge-based housebuilder Fernham Homes has been forging ahead with its plans and has a refreshingly positive outlook for 2021.
As the year draws to a close, the company, which appointed a new director in summer to drive forward its ambitious growth plans, has a dozen projects in the pipeline, ranging from proposals for up to 150 new homes in Faversham to boutique developments such as nine new properties in mature grounds at Orwell Spike near West Malling.
New development director Chris Loughead is delighted with the company’s performance through the difficulties of 2020 and is upbeat about how 2021 will unfold for the privately-owned housebuilder as it continues to expand beyond its original Kent heartland into East Sussex and Greater London.
“Of course, 2020 has been awful in so many ways, but with the good news of a vaccine in sight it’s really important to think positive and keep planning for the future,” Chris says. “Throughout the lockdown, we have continued to source and acquire new land, draw up plans and gain planning permissions to help us to support the Government’s important agenda of getting Britain building again and helping to create the new homes the country so badly needs.”
Since Chris became development director he has spearheaded a number of new projects which will get underway in the first quarter of 2021. He says: “It’s important all of us are seen as making a positive impact on the communities we work with. I’m particularly pleased with two developments reaching the planning stage early next year that will bring a positive impact to village life.
“In Sissinghurst, we hope to submit proposals to build a new village hall to replace a small building that has served the community well for more than a century, but is in poor condition and no longer adequate – alongside which we are constructing 20 carefully-crafted new homes. Then in Newington, near Sittingbourne, we are supporting the local primary school and making life safer for children by submitting plans to build a new drop-off facility and staff parking as part of our plans for 20 new family homes nearby.”
In addition to these new projects, work will shortly be underway to create 45 properties, including 18 affordable homes, at Matfield, near Tunbridge Wells. Here the scheme includes biodiversity enhancements and a new ecological habitat, including an extensive community orchard and public open space, plus a contribution of £350,000 towards local infrastructure improvements.
“We are keen to push forward the country’s recovery from this terrible pandemic by getting people working and building a better future,” says Chris. “The Government has done much to help the industry in the short term by introducing the Stamp Duty Holiday that has created a spike in demand for property, but with this coming to end, and the limiting of the Help to Buy scheme to first-time buyers only from April, we do need a commitment from the Government that it will continue to help in the longer term as well. If the Prime Minister really wants to usher in a new golden age of home ownership then he needs to find ways to help home-movers as well as first-time buyers, and look again.at how the regressive Stamp Duty taxation damages the housing market.”
Michael Canham, director of Fernham Homes, comments: “During the heart of the pandemic we created the role of development director to help the company deliver its ambitious five-year aspiration of building 150-200 new homes each year – and despite all the troubles of 2020, Chris has put us firmly on track to meet, and quite possibly exceed, that aim. We are starting 2021 full of optimism for a fruitful and successful year ahead.”
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