A New Look for the Sandfield Site

In a 'Neighbourhood News' piece, (Terms agreed for the sale of the 'Sandfield/Cottesmore School Site') this website reported that the former Cottesmore School/Sandfield Centre had been sold by Nottingham City Council to UK Regeneration. Here, Jackie Sadek, UK Regeneration's Chief Executive, explains the thinking behind UKR's innovative approach and how the plans for the Sandfield Centre site will help to regenerate its neighbourhood.

UK Regeneration is a new organisation created to deliver change in our towns and cities. Following the financial crisis and the radical changes in government policy after the election we concluded that a new approach was needed. The traditional model of home ownership has not been meeting the shift in lifestyles and aspirations.  House builders and landlords have no incentive or desire to engage with occupiers beyond the minimum necessary. People cannot –as they usually do - make decisions based on the quality of service they receive and the values and performance they associate with brands. UKR will be different; we will put people at the heart of everything we do. Our developments therefore focus on building new homes specifically for long term renting and include a mix of workspaces, retail and commercial activities as well. 

Our plan is to work in partnership with local authorities to find sites of sufficient scale (around 5 acres) and in a suitable location near city centres. Nottingham City Council quickly grasped the potential for a UKR scheme to make a major contribution to the City’s objectives: increasing and diversifying housing supply; creating a distinctive offer that would support inward investment; and promoting local regeneration and economic development. The Sandfields site was identified and we have worked with the Council to complete the land acquisition and to prepare a scheme that marries the UKR model with the needs of the locality.

Sandfields is a well located 5 acre site which needs bringing back into effective use for the benefit of the local community and the City. We therefore plan to create a distinctive “urban village” there, equidistant from the city centre and the universities/hospital complexes. Sandfields will be a new high quality quarter of Nottingham, comprising a number of elements, imaginatively arranged around public spaces.  There will be around 200 homes built to good space standards and designed from the start for private renting so that they reflect the real needs of people and be efficient to manage.  We will establish renting as an aspiration and positive choice, not a second best option for those who can’t afford to buy.  Quality homes will be attractive to young and old alike and will enhance the attraction of Nottingham as a destination for inward investment.

In addition to the homes there will be a “hub” incorporating commercial and community space into the lower floors. UKR is working with Team Nottingham and the local business community to find appropriate retail and leisure tenants with whom we are comfortable to associate the UKR name, with a mix of small local operators offering niche boutiques to include a coffee shop and ice cream parlour. We will include:

  • A “town square” or heart to play host to Farmers Markets, Christmas Markets and so forth, as well as providing space for community performances.
  • Club UKR: incubator space for micro-business and SME start-ups, collaboratingwith the facilities in the Marcus Garvey Centre
  • Meeting rooms/function rooms both fo residents of the scheme and the wider community. 

We presented our initial ideas about the Sandfields scheme in three public exhibitions earlier in the year. We were very pleased with the positive responses we got – with a welcome for something happening to help revive the Sandfields site and the wider neighbourhood. Inevitably people had lots of questions so here are some of the key points about the scheme

Why just renting? We believe that people want and need an alternative to buying a house. This gives them choices which better reflect their needs at different stages in their lives. Designing from the start for renting means that we can provide better and more suitable homes and also manage the whole development to maintain quality.

Who is the scheme aimed at? Almost anyone (apart from students!). We expect the homes to be attractive to younger working people but also to others at all stages of life. It will be designed to offer what people want.

Will this be a long term approach? Yes. One of the benefits of UKR’s model is our commitment to operate and manage the scheme for the long term. This means we have an interest in making a high quality place to live and in helping to improve the local area.

Will this mean more students? No. We are not letting these properties to students (they have purpose built property elsewhere in Nottingham). We are agreeing with the Council some formal arrangements to make sure that the approach is maintained and we avoid the problems found in student areas and HMOs by managing the quality of the area. We want to bring new economic activity to Lenton.

Will this lead to more parking in the streets? We plan to limit the use of cars, for example by having a car club and supporting public transport. We (in partnership with the City Council) will restrict the use of parking in the area by our residents.

Will the commercial uses be useful to local people or just for residents? Yes. We want to help create a new heart to Lenton. We will work with the existing businesses and organisations.

Will the commercial uses compete with existing businesses that are struggling? That is not our plan. We will be looking for people to open and create businesses that offer high quality and something new and different.

But this might just become a “white elephant”?  We have a new approach. We will have a very flexible space that can be used for a variety of purposes – retail, leisure, cafes and so on. There will be no boarded up shops!

How does this link with the Lenton Flats redevelopment? We are working closely with Nottingham City Homes to ensure that our plans complement each other and that we can jointly improve routes through the area and the way the Derby Road works.

Are there jobs for local people? Yes, both in construction and the longer term. This is a fundamental principle for UKR. We are working with the City and bringing our experience and expertise from elsewhere to make sure that this is a real feature of the scheme. The business club will forge links with the Invest in Nottingham Club and help and encourage small businesses and local entrepreneurs.

UKR is committing to the long term improvement and development of Sandfields and Lenton. Because we are creating homes to rent we will have a strong interest in maintaining the quality of the scheme and the neighbourhood. We believe that bringing together homes, business and work space, community facilities, leisure and retail will be a catalyst for change. We can put a heart back into the community.

We are very grateful to everyone who has been helping us to understand the area and the concerns and ambitions people have here. We know that we have more to learn as we finalise our proposals. We welcome your views and ideas to help make Sandfields the start of something new for Lenton.