Lenton has changed and is changing. That it will continue to change is certain. However, what Lenton will look like in the future is far from clear. This document reports the proceedings of a round table meeting which was convened first to examine the characteristics of Lenton today; second, to examine its potential to meet the challenges of the future; and third, within the overall context of attaining balanced, sustainable and resilient neighbourhoods, to begin to explore ways in which to achieve an agreed ‘Vision for Lenton’.
The first section of the document provides an introduction to Lenton’s recent history and to the legislative and other changes which have made it feasible to consider the possibility that managed changes can take place in Lenton, as well as explaining the rationale behind focusing the meeting on Lenton and, in particular, on Lenton’s housing.
Section 2 sets the aims of the meeting, introduces the participants and explains how it was structured. Then, Section 3, by asking a series of questions, establishes what participants see as the positive aspects of Lenton, and then moves the meeting by stages to the point where, in Section 4, it becomes possible to achieve the aim of a consensus on a ‘Vision for Lenton’.
Section 5 identifies various ways in which the ‘Vision for Lenton’ may be achieved, whilst Section 6, having acknowledged that for the ‘Vision for Lenton’ to have substance, the round table meeting cannot be an end in itself, proposes a programme of actions to implement the aims of the meeting. Leading on from this, Section 7 provides a brief review of what the meeting concluded, identifies the challenge of how to move forward to the next stage and outlines possible future actions.
Finally, the appendices, grouped together under the heading of ‘Supplementary Documentation’, provide additional information.
1. BACKGROUND TO THE
ROUND TABLE MEETING
1.1 Post-War Lenton
The geographical focus of the primarily residential area known as ‘Lenton’ is in Dunkirk & Lenton Ward, roughly forming a rectangle bounded by the Park Estate, Derby Road, Clifton Boulevard, and Abbey Street/Castle Boulevard. However, another significant part of ‘Lenton’ is located in Radford and Park Ward, forming a triangle where Derby Road and Ilkeston Road are the sides, Faraday Road is the base, and the apex is Canning Circus.
Post-War Lenton has experienced many significant changes (socio-economic, demographic and environmental). The one with the most impact on the local skyline was the demolition in the 1960’s of streets where some of the scenes in the cinema version of Alan Sillitoe’s ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’ were filmed to be replaced by five high-rise tower blocks. These, the ‘Lenton Flats’, have become Lenton’s most familiar landmark.
Now, at the beginning of 2014, they are becoming once again the highly visual symbol of ‘changing Lenton’: how Lenton has changed and how it is being changed.
As part of the biggest council house building programme in Nottingham for 40 years, two of the blocks have been demolished already and the remaining three will have disappeared by the end of 2015, to be replaced by flats (including independent living flats), bungalows, family houses and a small number of retail units. It is expected that the first tenants will be moving into the independent living scheme in early 2015, and the whole site is scheduled to be completed in 2017.
1.2 Lenton’s Housing
Lenton is a relatively compact area which exhibits a wide range of broadly attractive housing types and neighbourhoods.
In fact, although the area has some modest terraced housing, by and large it has a substantial amount of properties (including ‘family’ homes with gardens, Victorian/Edwardian, inter-war, and more recently built dwellings) which are very much the equal of those found in very desirable neighbourhoods elsewhere in the city, for example Wollaton and Sherwood.
1.3 Lenton’s Changing Profile
The influence of two other Post-War developments, though arguably not as visually striking as the high-rise tower blocks, have been pivotal in moulding the shape of Lenton in the late 20th Century, and indeed will continue to have major roles in reshaping Lenton in the 21st Century.
The first is the clearance in the late 1960’s of the ‘Spring Farm’ site (a mixed residential/industrial neighbourhood lying between the River Leen and Clifton Boulevard) to make way for the Queen’s Medical Centre and Nottingham University’s Medical School.
The second, following on from the decline of traditional industry in the area, as epitomised by the closure of the Raleigh factory, is the expansion of Nottingham University, which, in the 1990’s, purchased the vacant Raleigh factory site and began its on-going redevelopment as the University’s second Nottingham campus – the Jubilee Campus.
Not only did the former bring into the area a range of new job opportunities and medical health professionals and ancillary workers, but the opening of the Medical School in the early 1970’s introduced students to the area whose accommodation requirement was going to be much longer than the two to three years of the ‘traditional’ university undergraduate. This, together with the increasing intake of undergraduate students, further accelerated the, (by then) on-going, trend for students to live in shared houses (or HMOs as they are now called) rather than as lodgers living with families in the Lenton area. Parents as well as landlords and investors, took the opportunity to buy local homes which their children could then share with others. After graduation such could either provide a useful return on the initial investment, or could continue to be rented out to future generations of students.
So, although it is likely to be correct to say that significant demographic and social changes in Lenton in the years after World War II came about as a result of Commonwealth and European migrant families moving away from inner city areas with poor quality housing into the more desirable neighbourhoods that Lenton offered them, the Jubilee Campus is symbolic of the most recent changes in Lenton’s demographic, socio-economic and housing tenure profiles, and what has driven those changes.
It is probably obvious that, since University Park became Nottingham University’s administrative and academic headquarters, the university, its staff and of course its students have had a significant impact on Lenton’s profile. At one time or another administrative, academic and ancillary staff and their families have lived in and around Lenton and have contributed to the social and economic stability and resilience of the area.
There is anecdotal evidence that, by and large and until very recently, the student population had also been assimilated into what can be called the Lenton ‘community’. For want of better terminology ‘settled’ residents, many of whom have lived in Lenton’s various neighbourhoods for up to 40 years or more, have consistently remarked upon the relaxed relationships that existed between themselves and students, even when students’ preferences changed from looking to rent a room as a lodger in a family home, to groups of students renting entire houses (what are now known as HMOs). Students acted as babysitters, played games in the streets with older children, and settled residents tended to keep an eye out for the safety and security of students and their possessions. It is tempting to say that, (even taking into account the possibility that hindsight may well be coloured to some extent by ‘pink tinted spectacles’, and that friction between settled residents and students did occur) at that time students were part of the Lenton ‘community’.
It is not particularly useful to speculate as to when this situation began to change; simply to accept that it has done so. Not unexpectedly, by far and away the most significant changes have coincided with the substantial increases in students numbers at Nottingham’s two universities in the mid- to late-1990s and the early 2000’s. In the absence of alternative accommodation, students turned to the private rented sector and specifically to shared houses. In its turn, the private rented sector responded by investing in shared houses specifically for the student market.
The impact these changes have had on the profile of the population of Lenton, its demography, housing tenure, cohesion, balance, etc. is well documented (see for example the 2001 and 2011 Census analyses presented in Appendix A.5.); is supported by that experienced in other towns and cities across the United Kingdom; and reflects the wider perception of Lenton that now exists as an area dominated by HMOs and with a highly transient populationNote 1.
NOTE 1: The ‘Customer Profile’ for Dunkirk & Lenton Ward, prepared by the GIS Team and Policy & Information Team at Nottingham City
Council, provides useful insights into the Ward, its people and its characteristics. This and other relevant data can be downloaded from the
Nottingham Insight website at www.nottinghaminsight.org.uk.
1.4 Response to Changes
1.4.1 The ‘Toolkit’
National and local campaigns by MPs, councillors and groups of residents over the period 2000 to 2010 have produced major changes in national legislation which, in turn, have given local authorities the housing and planning ‘toolkit’ necessary for management and control of HMOs, viz: the Housing 2004, and the 2010 amendments to the Town & Country Planning (Use Classes and General Permitted Development) Orders of 1987 and 1995 respectively. The former required local authorities to bring in mandatory licensing of all larger HMOs (those with three or more storeys and five or more occupants), and also made provision for additional and selective licensing of HMOs.
Mandatory licensing of larger HMOs began in 2006, and in January 2014 Nottingham City Council brought in additional licensing of all HMOs in a specified area of the city, including most of the area covered by the discussion.
As a result of the changes to the Town & Country Planning Orders (and amendments) of 2010, Nottingham City Council brought in a city-wide Article 4 Direction in 2012 which requires owners to seek planning permission if they wish to convert a property into a small HMO (three to six occupants): larger HMOs are sui generis and were already subject to planning controlNote 2. In addition, Nottingham City Council has successfully applied to the Secretary of State for permission to make a statutory Regulation 7 Direction removing deemed consent from ‘To Let’ boards, again in a specified part of the city, and to introduce a code of practice for these boards. This came into effect in October 2012 and has:
(a) significantly reduced the detrimental visual impact of this form of advertising in the areas where the Regulation 7 Direction is operating; and
(b) reduced the perception that these are ‘transient’ neighbourhoods. One of the areas where the Regulation 7 Direction is operating is Lenton.
NOTE 2: When used in a planning context, the term ‘sui generis’ refers to the fact that dwellings with more than six unrelated occupants have a unique set of characteristics which puts them in a class of their own, separate from other classes of land use. Therefore, permission for the development to take place was needed even before the 2010 changes in the Town & Country Planning Orders established the C4 (small HMO) use class.
1.4.2 The ‘Window of Opportunity’
A number of other factors are now also contributing to a ‘window of opportunity’ which may enable changes to be enacted in Lenton.
Some of these have been presented in a comprehensive report commissioned by Unipol and published towards the end of 2013: Assessment of Student Residence and Housing Market Conditions in Nottingham’Note 3, for example
- the demographic downturn in 18-20 year olds to 2020
- the decline in numbers of students entering higher education in Nottingham
- the increasing provision of purpose-built student accommodation
- an increasing surplus in available bed spaces within the overall student market (including those in HMOs)
- increasing competition between purpose-built and HMO accommodation.
Although the focus of this report is on the rent-to-students accommodation market, its findings are relevant, and also of wider significance for Lenton since it is this part of the private rented sector which is dominant in Lenton.
The pressure created by demand for rented accommodation in Lenton means that the area is significantly affected by the sort of imbalances in the neighbourhood housing market many of the policies adopted by Nottingham City Council seek to address. Some of these imbalances are illustrated elsewhere in this report.
Taken as a whole, this creates a pressing need for the issues faced by the neighbourhood to be addressed, and therefore this window of comes at an opportune moment in time.
The potential for Lenton to change is also assisted by the development of accreditation schemes designed to improve the quality of provision of private rented accommodation, and by improved cleansing regimes and Community Protection initiatives which, like the Regulation 7 Direction on ‘To Let’ boards, are reducing the visual impact of HMOs in the majority of Lenton’s neighbourhoods.
NOTE 3: The report, Assessment of Student Residence and Housing Market Conditions in Nottingham, is available for download from the Unipol website: www.unipol.org.uk.
1.5 Why Focus on Lenton & Lenton’s Housing?
The decision to make Lenton, and specifically Lenton’s housing, the focus of this particular round table event was based largely on these points:
- Housing is fundamental to the matters of concern;
- Lenton is geographically small enough to make research into it, the development of strategies for change, and their implementation feasible;
- In terms of different housing types and neighbourhoods, Lenton is a very diverse area;
- Its suburban environment means that it has the potential to become attractive to a new tranche of residents;
- Lenton has good access to the main road network and to public transport as well as being within walking distance of the city centre and retail outlets, as well as to some local parks, open spaces and gardens;
- The redevelopment of the Lenton high-rise towers for mixed ‘family’ housing, plus that of the Sandfield Centre as apartments to rent to a non-transient population, are developments which have the potential to kick start other changes in Lenton;
- There is land available for new owner-occupied housing (Genristo/Prospect Place and the Hillside Club sites) which, with imaginative and innovative development, could not only bring new people into Lenton, but help to redress the present perception of it;
- The development of a medi-park on the Hooley’s car park site adjacent to the Queen’s Medical Centre has the potential to provide new jobs, and also to attract new people who could be encouraged to live as well as work in a changing/changed Lenton;
- Public facilities such as schools, libraries and leisure/sports centres, shops and other infrastructure are clearly important factors in an area, and need to be brought into the equation when considering how to facilitate changes to Lenton. For example, one of the key issues highlighted in pre-meeting discussions and correspondence, as well as during the meeting itself, is the perceived lack of availability of high-quality primary and secondary schools which appeal to in-coming families with children.
However, the foundation of all neighbourhoods and communities is their housing: the ability of an area to provide a choice of homes for people with different requirements, and the flexibility to move from one type of housing to another, as well as from one form of housing tenure to another.
To summarise, by and large Lenton can offer a good deal of attractive housing, equal to that in many other well-known and sought after neighbourhoods, and which, if the circumstances are favourable, is able to meet a variety of different housing needs, and flexible enough to permit people to move within the area (downsize or upsize) without having to leave altogether.
As such, Lenton has many of the ingredients which elsewhere in Nottingham produce stable, desirable, sustainable and resilient neighbourhoods.
2. THE ROUND TABLE PROGRAMME
2.1 Aims of the Round Table
The immediate aims of the meeting were:
- To come up with a ‘Vision for Lenton’
- To put forward recommendations for future work
- To suggest practical projects that can be undertaken in the near future.
Not all of the people who were invited to come to the round table meeting are residents of Nottingham, or indeed have hands-on knowledge or experience of Lenton itself. However, all are experienced practitioners in a variety of fields and their knowledge and understanding is highly relevant to the subject in hand: Lenton and Lenton’s housing.
Appendix A.1 gives a list of participants (including people who had been invited, but who, on the day, had not been able to come), while Appendix A.2 and Appendix A.4 present brief profiles and notes provided by participants prior to the meeting.
2.3 Meeting Format
In order to facilitate discussion and to make it easier to collate ideas and information, participants were assigned to one of six groups, shown below in Table 1.
The programme for the meeting is presented in Appendix A.3.
3.1 What is Really Good About Lenton?
The round table discussion was structured around a series of questions, the first of which was designed as an ‘icebreaker’ to stimulate discussion. Each group was asked to come up with one-word answers. These included:
♦lively, ♦vibrant, ♦convenient, ♦leafy, ♦architecturally pleasant, ♦potential, ♦students, ♦village.
The collated responses are shown in Table 2 below.
3.2 What is Happening in Lenton?
Prior to the meeting a number of participants were asked to present short summaries of what they understood was happening in Lenton. They were chosen because it was felt that their knowledge of Lenton and/or of the issues in Lenton would form a base from which the discussion could progress.
Councillor Dave Trimble (Dunkirk & Lenton Ward) explained that there had been many changes in the area in the last 20 years. He pointed out that, although Lenton has a successful university and hospital/medical school, it now suffers from ‘wear and tear’ and an imbalance of housing tenure. He added that Lenton has a large number of takeaways and letting agents, and suffers from a number of issues amongst which are car parking and noise nuisance.
He suggested that more purpose built accommodation for students in the city centre area was required, and also that other iconic housing development, possibly similar to that which has been built in Green Street in the Meadows, would help to address some of the imbalance in Lenton. He concluded by saying that there is no ‘magic wand’ which can change things overnight.
Councillor Sarah Piper (Dunkirk & Lenton Ward) highlighted some of the difficulties associated with changing Lenton, i.e. the demand for student housing in the Lenton Triangle and in the Lenton Drives neighbourhood, and the possibility that problems could arise from vacant housing.
Graham de Max (Housing Strategy, Nottingham City Council) commented on the fact that there is a distorted housing market in Lenton, and that whilst there will always be a mix of different populations and tenures in Lenton, the matter at hand is what that mix is, what it needs to be, and how that is to be achieved.
Paul Seddon (Head of Development Management, Nottingham City Council) explained that, from a planning perspective, at the moment new HMOs are not being formed in the area, and there is now a degree of stability in the housing mix in Lenton. The Local Plan, which is at present out for consultation, is continuing to protect and support family housing, whilst encouraging purpose built student accommodation, predominantly in the city centre.
In the city centre, the trend for change of use of existing offices to residential units is being maintained, and planning applications for purpose built student accommodation continue to be received by the Council. This is continuing to change the student housing offer across the city. However, the impact of the amount of purpose built student accommodation on the student housing market is not fully clear at this moment in time.
There remains interest in developing further purpose built student accommodation in the city centre and other accessible sites. At present there appear to be no major reactions yet apparent within the market as these changes are absorbed, and it is not clear just how this will impact on Lenton if demand for HMOs changes.
Huw Jones (Re’new, Leeds) reported that there has been some generic research into student residents and their impact on local housing markets. There appears to be evidence that students are leaving parts of the city, but the research suggests that returning HMOs (houses in multiple occupation) back to family use is not easy to accomplish. Reputational and environmental issues need to be overcome, and ‘re-branding’ may be needed. A number of other factors are also present, including: difficulty in borrowing money which curtails demand; increasing demand for rented accommodation (especially by young, non-student people, who are unable to get on the home-ownership ladder); competitive edge of other areas; large houses which may lack gardens, car parking, etc. There is a need for clarity when it comes to what a ‘family’ actually is, and also for partnership working. However, ‘green’ and energy saving issues may prove to be attractive, but if the housing stock is older, this can also present a barrier.
Professor Darren Smith (Loughborough University) presented an analysis of Census data from 2001 and 2011 for Dunkirk & Lenton Ward which he described as illustrating a period of ‘entrenchment and consolidation’. Professor Smith’s analysis is presented in Appendix A.5.1.
Giles Inman (East Midlands Property Owners) said that over the last twelve months there has been a noticeable increase in properties for sale, along with an increasing number of investors looking to sell. He gave the reasons for this as: increasing local authority regulations; over-supply; and perception of Lenton as a student area. He stated that there are over 150 houses on the market in Lenton being offered as investments. Properties which have the relevant (HMO) licences are holding their price. However, many owner-occupiers cannot achieve the price they want for their properties because of the impact of planning restrictions. He explained that investors are exploring other options. he believes there is no demand for family housing in the area, and Lenton is likely to suffer from more empty properties.
Rachel Kolebuk (Nottingham Building Society) commented that the residential housing market in Lenton is very flat and demand is low. Properties are taking up to 9 months to sell, and prices are being reduced because investors are unable to buy a house because of HMO regulations. The average price is approximately £125,000. With regard to investment properties, she explained that those properties which already have all the appropriate HMO paperwork are holding their value, and sell within 24 hours. The average price in this market is £180,000. She concluded by saying that it would be a challenge to get sales in the family market in this area.
3.3 Do We Agree About What is Happening? Do We Agree that Things Need to Change?
There was a general consensus amongst the participants that the comments made in Section 3.2 were a reasonably accurate reflection of what is happening in Lenton. However, although it was also widely accepted that there needs to be change, and that change is imminent, two specific comments were made which should be noted.
The first was that, from a student perspective, Lenton is not seen as needing change, and that the focus should be on improving the quality of the housing on offer.
The second was that the two main problems which exist and which need to be addressed are the perception of the area, and of its schools.
3.4 What is the Change We Want to See in Lenton?
In order to help shape a vision for Lenton, participants were asked to imagine what Lenton could be like in ten years time. To help with this exercise, four additional questions were posed:
- What can you, as an individual, see Lenton looking like?
- What will be happening in Lenton?
- What local facilities are being used?
- Who is living and working in Lenton.
A selection of responses is given below. However, a comprehensive summary of all the responses is given in Appendix A.6.
What can you as an individual see Lenton looking like?
♦Stabilisation of student numbers; ♦higher quality HMOs; ♦rebalancing of housing mix; ♦more quality housing; ♦increase in renting; ♦ Street style eco developments; ♦inner urban area with mixed/edgy community; ♦ as now, but better.
What will be happening in Lenton?
♦New family developments; ♦some landlords will leave; ♦fabric improvement; ♦low crime; ♦increase in community activity; ♦higher proportion of economically active people; ♦retention of students/graduates who want to ‘put down roots’; ♦expansion of science and QMC jobs; ♦more older people.
A less optimistic vision of the area was one which saw Lenton becoming ♦scruffy with no families left in the future.
What local facilities are being used?
♦Improving schools; ♦parks and open spaces; ♦cinema; ♦the Lenton Centre; ♦good pubs; ♦religious establishments; ♦cafes and independent shops.
Who is living and working in Lenton?
♦Students but fewer; ♦more families; ♦more graduates/key workers, ♦older people, ♦landlords, ♦entrepreneurs, ♦owner-occupiers and renters; ♦new workforce;♦balanced and mixed community.
4. A VISION FOR LENTON
After a discussion around feedback from the previous session, an agreed ‘vision for Lenton’ began to emerge.
It was possible to develop this into several, clear thematic areas:
♦the economy ♦housing ♦community.
These are summarised in Appendix A.7 and illustrated in the flipchart photograph of the ‘Vision for Lenton’ compiled by the Chair and reproduced in Figure 1 below.
In addition, it was possible to produce a single over-arching statement of a ‘Vision for Lenton’ as ...
An ‘up and coming’ area with a strong sense of identity.
A destination that people want to visit and live in which provides excellent facilities for a diverse and energetic community
Figure 1: Flipchart of a 'Vision for Lenton'
5. ACHIEVING THE VISION
The focus here was on how to go about achieving the vision which the round table had arrived at, and which projects or initiatives should be explored in the short, medium and long term.
During the general discussion, a number of points were raised:
- The possibility of large companies such as Boots and attractive mid-market catering outlets,such as Costa and Pizza Express, moving into the area, perhaps near the Savoy cinema, offering all the elements of an evening out.
- It is difficult for first-time buyers to obtain a deposit. Nottingham City Council is exploring with the Nottingham Building Society the possibility of setting up an intervention scheme where the local authority helps buyers with their deposits. At the moment it is not clear whether the Government’s ‘Help to Buy’ scheme will work and whether it will help in an area such as Lenton.
- More 95% mortgages are returning to the market, and this could help first-time buyers.
- The proposed development of the Sandfield Centre site could lead to rents comparable with those in The Park.
- Can Neighbourhood Plans take things forward?
A number of specific comments, linked to the vision themes, were also made.
- Three sites (Genristo/Prospect Place, Hillside Club, Hooley’s Car Park) were identified as having the potential, if suitably developed, to provide a welcome boost to Lenton. Whilst the latter is clearly suitable for regeneration as a medi-park, the first two have potential for redevelopment as new and innovative housing.
- The eco-housing option was mentioned as a possible catalyst for driving change in the area.
- Delivering such housing could be a focus for the attendees of this event to work together.
- The successful Meadows eco-housing development scheme posed the question whether there is a possibility that a similar scheme could take place in Lenton. Developers are interested in investing in this area. However, more research and analysis of results for Lenton needs to take place.
- There are companies which would be able to construct such developments, and it was suggested that the investment future is looking positive.
- It was mooted that a document/template could be produced to give to organisations considering development work in Lenton, outlining what would be expected of the developers and their developments.
A document outlining what has been done in Headingley, Leeds by way of a Neighbourhood Design Statement was presentedNote 4.
More information about this is being sought.
NOTE 4: the Headingley and Hyde Park Neighbourhood Design Statement SPD can be downloaded from: www.nottinghamaction.org.uk/key-issues/building neighbourhoods/headingley-and-hyde-park-neighbourhood-design-statement/
5.3 Other Relevant Issues
A need to carry out more research and data analysis for the Lenton area was clearly identified:
- Mapping to be led by Nottingham City Council’s Housing Strategy Team in association with the Nottingham Action Group on HMOs.
- Dr. Lucelia Rodrigues and her colleague briefed attendees on research that they and their group have been conducting in the Meadows and other regeneration projects on the south side of the city. The intention is to broaden the scope of this work in order to explore opportunities that may help Lenton to become a more sustainable and resilient community. Appointment of a researcher to work on Dr. Rodrigues et al’s project is under way.
6. MOVING FORWARD
Actions for Progress
It is essential that the round table stimulates actions which will move forward the agreed ‘Vision for Lenton’. Therefore, it is important that projects are devised which can take place in the short to medium term. Suggestions put forward include:
- Gathering baseline data about Lenton. In order to measure our success in changing Lenton, we need to know precisely what the situation is now.
- Mapping housing types across Lenton. What sort of archetypes exist, what amenities do they have, and what potential is there for shifting the pattern of use away from HMOs?
- Identifying the different neighbourhoods in Lenton and their unique characteristics as a means of aiding detailed analysis of Lenton’s potential. The Lenton area covers a number of small sub-markets, each of which needs to be identified and its potential analysed.
- Exploring the possibility of developing a ‘neighbourhood plan’ for Lenton. This would not be the neighbourhood plan concept within the Localism Act. It would be more akin to a ‘prospectus for the area’, with the potential to become a Supplementary Planning Document.
- Learning from the work done in Headingley Leeds, supported by the Leeds HMO Lobby which has developed community-based approaches to issues arising from the decline in the proportion of student properties in the area.
- Setting up a programme to address the perception of Lenton using a range of tools such as photographs, websites, etc. This action relates back to the comments made throughout the discussion that the area suffers from a negative public perception as a student area with problems of litter, antisocial behaviour, etc. These perceptions can be changed by better and positive promotion of the area, and this is clearly a vital element in trying to attract new families to make their homes in Lenton as well as ensuring that graduates who may wish to do so remain in the area.
- Working with the East Midlands Urban Design Group to flag up ‘changing Lenton’. It will be helpful to raise the profile of what we are trying to achieve in Lenton, initially at a regional level, but possibly later at a national level also.
- Assessing development opportunities in Lenton and producing guidelines for developers as to standards and types of development. (See, for example, the ‘Building for Life 12 standard.Note 5) This would naturally link very closely to the ‘prospectus’ suggestion made above.
- Continuing to support the development of innovative accommodation which will be attractive to returning as well as first year studentsNote 6.
NOTE 5: Information about the Build for Life 12 (BfL12) standard is available at www.builtforlifehomes.org.
NOTE 6: For example the ‘Graystacks Project of student town houses on Castle Boulevard: www.nottinghamaction.org.uk/key_issues
- Exploring the possibility of a local mortgage scheme, delivered by Nottingham City Council, which would assist first-time buyers to secure a mortgage specifically to purchase ex-HMOs in the area. This might be done in conjunction with the conversion of HMOs into self-contained flats, bringing down the cost of entry-level housing in the area.
- It is also essential that ownership/responsibility for making progress with the vision is established at the earliest opportunity.
7. THE CHALLENGE
The discussion closed on a note of some optimism, with the positive belief that it will be possible to bring about real change in Lenton, and that housing is a fundamental part of this. However, it was also recognised that there is no simple, ‘quick fix’ solution which can be applied to Lenton.
With or without intervention areas change over a period of time, the changes being shaped by a range of social and economic factors which, in turn, lead to shifts in the housing market. Here, we are making a conscious decision in Lenton not to leave the market to its own devices, but to try and pro-actively bring about the change through housing that residents and stakeholders want to see. The round table event should be seen as the beginning of this process. The challenge now is how to move forward to the next stage i.e. develop action plans for the projects which have been suggested, and identify timescales and ownership for these. Capacity and resources to deliver will need to be considered, and projects prioritised accordingly
Finally, it was agreed that the round table meeting will be reconvened in November 2014 in order to review progress and explore the direction of future work.
This round table meeting would not have taken place without support from Nottingham City Council’s Housing Strategy team, local councillors, and Lilian Greenwood (MP Nottingham South Constituency) who is particularly thanked for her expert chairmanship of the meeting.
Neither could it have taken place, or been as productive as it was, without the support of all of the participants, some of whom travelled some distance to come to Nottingham, and all of whom gave up their time to be at the meeting.
Unfortunately, some of those who had hoped to be there, were unable to attend. Their names and affiliations are listed in Appendix A.1 alongside those the people who were able to come.
Sincere thanks are also due to the people who in various ways have supported this report, commenting on its many drafts, proof reading it, etc., and especially to those individuals and organisations who have given permission for their photographs of Lenton to be used to illustrate it.
List of Participants
Darren Abbott has been a Planning Officer in the City Council’s Development Management Team for a number of years, dealing with a variety of planning applications city wide. He is currently a Planning Officer in the Planning Policy Team, which at present is heavily involved in formulating the new Land & Planning Policies Development Plan Document, a statutory planning document setting out policies for managing development and allocating sites for new development across the city.
Laura Alvarez is a Ph.D student at Nottingham University researching social sustainability and resilience. Lenton is one of her case studies.
Laura initially followed a career in science. She attended the local technical school and obtained a certificate in Chemistry. Immediately afterwards, she started a degree in Physics at the University of La Plata, Argentina. In 1995, she made a wise career turn and enrolled in the Architecture and Urbanism course. As a student in Argentina, she volunteered to work as a consultant to the local authority, which gave her a good level of understanding of people’s real needs, political frameworks and governance challenges, and how the combination of these translate into the urban form. She was also a founding member and Vice-president of a charitable organization (CERPHi) dedicated to the preservation of the local heritage. In her role, she worked on various projects nationally and internationally.
Since immigrating to the United Kingdom, in January 2002, she has built up a twelve-year career as an Architectural Technologist and Urban Designer, firstly in a self-employed capacity, and later on as an employee in large commercial firms. She joined the Urban Design Group and has actively worked as a volunteer for the charity since becoming the Regional Convenor for the East Midlands in 2008 and a Recognised Urban Design Practitioner in 2009. During this period in the UK she has gained an invaluable amount of knowledge about professional practice in this country, from legislation and governance to resources and current trends. The issue of sustainability is always central to her work. She believes this background experience is a key element in achieving a realistic and pragmatic view of urban design matters and, as such, it is a valuable skill for producing applicable theory. For that reason she decided to make a career move towards academia.
Martin Blakey is Chief Executive of Unipol Student Homes and established Unipol’s operation in Nottingham in 2007, now based in offices in Shakespeare Street. Unipol accredits over 25,000 student bed spaces in the city, inspecting and verifying standards on a regular basis. Martin has worked closely with HEIs, Local Authorities, Governments and major suppliers to raise housing standards and improve informed consumer choice. Unipol also houses some 3,000 students in Leeds, including 320 families, provides services to 15 HEIs and operates the main national training programme for those involved in student accommodation.
In 2012, in partnership with re’new, Unipol commissioned and co-wrote a significant report that brought the best factual evidence to the on-going debate about future student numbers and the balance of student residences between purpose build and HMOs in Leeds. In 2012 a similar report was commissioned in Nottingham and is due to be released on 10 December 2013. Both reports aim to assist policy makers, residents and institutions take the best-informed decisions they can on issues relating to neighbourhood and housing market transition.
Dave Cordell is the current University of Nottingham Students' Union Community Officer following election to that position in March 2013. His role encompasses a wide and varied remit that, in part, seeks to connect and represent the student body to external organizations. He has recently worked with Nottingham City Council and its Councillors, the Police, the University of Nottingham, the Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum, Nottingham Action Group and Nottingham Citizens. He is a recent graduate obtaining a Batchelor's Degree in Architecture from the University of Nottingham.
Graham de Max has worked in Housing in a variety of roles for over 26 years. He has worked for Nottingham City Council for 24 years. During that time he has worked in estate management, allocations, voids management, asylum seekers housing, project management, and housing strategy, his current role.
He has a Postgraduate Diploma in Housing from the London School of Economics, where he studied under the highly influential Professor Anne Power.
He was an undergraduate at the University of Nottingham 1981-1984, completing an Honours degree in History. He lived in a number of HMOs during that time, mostly of poor quality! For two years of his degree he lived in the Beeston Flats in Broadgate, which at the time was probably the most popular student accommodation for University of Nottingham students
Graham’s view of Lenton is that it has benefited from students living in the area, giving it a distinctive, diverse and interesting feel. However there is clearly now an imbalance in the population and a transience which seriously undermines community stability and cohesion.
Lenton has enormous potential he believes, and the changes which are coming about through the Lenton Flats and Sandfield redevelopments can be the catalyst for a transformation of the area back into one where there is a greater presence of “families” – which to him should mean anything from a young couple with children to households with a number of children and through to older households.
To him the biggest attraction of Lenton is the Savoy Cinema – it is a survivor of an age when virtually every neighbourhood had a local picture house. This, like the local pub, must have been a tremendously important focus for a thriving local community. Hopefully it can be so again.
Maya Fletcher’s last career position was as an Editorial Assistant with the Royal Society. She was responsible for the rapid publication of one of its biological sciences journals. She has lived in Lenton since 1978. In the early 1990’s she became involved with a local group which campaigned successfully against plans by the Queen’s Medical Centre to build a commercial clinical waste incinerator. Later, she was involved in the formation of the QMC-Residents Forum, which established a still active dialogue between the QMC, residents, the City Council, the Police and other partners. Following concerns, which had been expressed by residents attending QMC-Residents Forum meetings (and which she and her family shared), about the rapid increase in the number of HMOs in the area, as Residents’ co-Chair of the Forum, she arranged for an open meeting in November 2003 to discuss the issues raised with representatives from Nottingham University and its Students’ Union, Nottingham City Councillors and Officers, and Nottinghamshire Police. This led on to the formation of the Nottingham Action Group on HMOs (NAG) in February 2004.
Shaun Fox is Managing Director of Vulpes Ltd. He has lived in or on the border of Lenton since 1994. He has over 20 years experience working within the private (speculative) residential industry, including Board level positions at volume house builders and small regional house builders. Since 2008 he has been a sole proprietor bringing forward residential and mixed use developments and securing development finance. He is currently acting on behalf of a number of land owners who would be keen to see major changes taking shape in the Lenton area.
Huw Jones has recently established his own consultancy focusing on student housing, housing market and affordable housing assessment and interpretation work. Huw has recently completed two pieces of research commissioned by UNIPOL Student Homes looking at student residence patterns and impacts on local housing markets in Leeds (2012) and Nottingham (2013), and is currently advising Leeds City Council on developing means to address the impacts of changing student residence in the city.
Huw has also developed, following commission by Leeds City Council, a model for assessing housing market conditions, trends and prospects at a neighbourhood level, and has completed 15 such assessments over the last 2 years. Huw has worked closely with developers and house builders, housing associations, universities, community groups, estate and letting agents and private landlords, to design and co-ordinate these, and city wide housing market intelligence.
Huw previously worked as Consultancy and Membership Manager for regeneration charity, re’new, in Leeds, leading its consultancy service and providing housing consultancy services to members of re’new (including housing associations, third sector and private sector housing providers). Prior to this Huw led work on housing strategy, research and policy development at Leeds City Council for 15 years
David Hobbs is Operations Manager at Nottingham City Council. He has worked at Nottingham City Council since 2001 as an Environmental Health Officer, working in the Public Health team. For a period of 18 months he worked in the NHS Public Health team and returned to Nottingham City Council in 2007. He currently works in the HMO team. Work within the HMO team includes in the main responding to complaints from HMO properties and the licensing of HMOs.
Giles Inman is the Business Development Manager and spokesperson for East Midlands Property Owners based in Lenton, Nottingham. Part of his role is to represent residential landlords, letting agents and property investors in terms of providing advice and guidance on compliance, investment and management issues in terms of their rental property interests in Nottingham.
Gill Marshall is an urban regeneration practitioner with more than 25 years’ experience in the inward investment and economic development arena, the first dozen spent at the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC), actively targeting foreign and UK investors alike; and latterly as Deputy Chief Executive of Gateway to London, in charge of operations, delivering a full investment service for the region and directly intervening to create and safeguard over 10,000 jobs into east London.
Gill has been working with UKR for the past two years managing the UKR Business Forum and is heading up the community consultation for the Nottingham ‘Sandfields’ project and is developing the ‘Club UKR’ proposition.
Eleanor Millard lives in the City Centre and is a member of the NAG. She was previously an architect with experience in social housing. She has an inherent interest in many things, including in making life as pleasant as possible.
Sarah Piper is a councillor for Dunkirk & Lenton Ward and has been a resident of Lenton since 2002. She also has links with Nottingham University through her late father who worked as a lecturer there and was warden of Lincoln Hall. She has knowledge of the housing crisis which occurred in the area from 1988 onwards (caravans on campus, etc.), and especially the frenzy of 2004.
She is a fan of the Green Belt and is against building houses which will extend Nottingham’s urban sprawl. She would like to think imaginatively about how students can be housed in a way they like, but also how Lenton can accommodate more families and elderly residents.
The Council and Nottingham City Homes would like to see the area return to a more balanced population with families seeking to live there as they were pre-2004, and are investing heavily in high quality accommodation where the high-rise flats stand to house families and elderly residents. The high-rises, have undoubtedly blighted the area with poor-quality 1960’s architecture, and have became associated with high crime rates and anti-social behaviour. Their removal will hopefully improve the quality of new developments from the private sector.
Jackie Sadek has over 25 years’ experience in property development, managing large-scale urban regeneration projects and public-private sector partnerships. She is a national spokesperson on regeneration matters, a speaker and broadcaster on regeneration issues. As Chief Executive of UKR, Jackie is developing new models of delivery of regeneration projects, including mixed use pilots in Nottingham and Derby.
Laura Skaife has 10 years of experience working in senior communications and engagement roles at some of the country's biggest and busiest acute teaching trusts, including University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust and since 2007 Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust. Currently Associate Director of Communications, Laura leads a 10-strong team and is responsible for internal communications, external relations, media relations, digital communications, patient information and communication with wider stakeholders, including local residents, partners and the Trust's 14,500 public Foundation Trust members. She reports directly into the Chief Executive and is the Trust's strategic lead and advisor to the Trust Board on communications, engagement and external relations.
Darren Smith is Professor of Geography at Loughborough University, who has been researching student housing and town:gown relations since the late 1990s. Darren coined the term studentification, and has undertaken research on the topic in UK, China, USA, Canada, Australia and Ireland. He is currently leading studentification projects in Loughborough and Brighton. He is in the process of writing-up findings from a recent national survey of local planning departments and Article 4 Directions. Other on-going work includes an analysis of national secondary datasets to map and spatially analyse student geographies and housing in the UK.
Darren will provide an analysis of 2001 and 2011 GB census data to demonstrate the major demographic, social, economic and cultural changes to the Lenton wards, using measures based on consistent variables over the censuses to map the key changes to the population profile.
Steve Stott, Operations Manager, Neighbourhood Enforcement, Community Protection has worked for Nottingham City Council for 22 years in a variety of roles, and lived within the City (Bulwell) for the whole of that time. Since December 2011, he has been Operations Manager for Community Protection's Neighbourhood Enforcement service with responsibility for the City's Central Locality, which includes Lenton. Neighbourhood Enforcement teams comprise a mix of front line uniformed officers and specialist technical enforcement officers who tackle low level anti-social behaviour and environmental crime. The service adopts a "People, Places, Premises" problem solving model and any major changes to Lenton housing is likely to have a significant impact on the enforcement challenges that are presented. New ASB legislation which is currently before Parliament will also have a major impact on how Neighbourhood Enforcement is able to tackle any enforcement challenges that are presented.
Dr. Lucelia Taranto Rodrigues is Deputy Head of Infrastructure, Geomatics & Architecture Research Division at Nottingham University. She lived in Lenton herself for five years and knows its problems and advantages. Together with colleagues, Katharina Borsi and Mark Gillott, she is working on a project named TURAS (Transitioning Towards Urban Resilience and Sustainability). This is an initiative supported by the Seventh Framework Programme of the EU bringing urban communities and businesses together with local authorities and researchers to collaborate on developing practical new solutions for more sustainable and resilient European cities. (For more information on this go to http://www.turas-cities.org.) One of her colleagues, Laura Alvarez, is developing a Ph.D thesis around the theme of resilient communities, and would like to explore the idea of having Lenton as a case study.
Dr. Rodrigues and her colleagues are interested in regeneration projects in Nottingham, and in particular with community engagement with the Council and businesses. They work closely with a number of the institutions who will be attending the round table. also, they have engaged with other community-driven projects such as Mozes in The Meadows.
Dr. Rodrigues and her colleagues wish to contribute their experience in regeneration to the round table and, particularly, to explore research opportunities that may help Lenton become a more sustainable and resilient community.
Dr. Richard Tyler is Co-ordinator of the National HMO Lobby, whose campaign was instrumental in persuading the government to amend the Use Classes Order, which has meant that since 2010 HMOs have been subject to planning controls (albeit through Article 4 Directions). He is also the Co-ordinator of Leeds HMO Lobby (instigator of the national organisation), which campaigns locally to address HMO and related problems in and around Headingley in Leeds - which are very similar to those in Lenton (though every area has its own peculiarities). Richard was also a founder-Director of Headingley Development Trust, and is still the Project Leader of Headingley Homes, which is attempting proactively to address the predominance of the PRS in Headingley, and hence its demographic imbalance. He hopes that sharing these experiences may be of assistance to Lenton.
Matthew Wilson is a Nottingham City Homes Regeneration Project Manager. In Lenton, he is helping to keep stakeholders informed about what is happening (demolition and construction activities) and the detail about the new homes that are planned at the site, which is of particular interest to the residents of Newgate Court. Together with the contractors and considering wider regeneration opportunities, Nottingham City Homes is seeking to make environmental improvements, promote physical activity, promote community cohesion, provide educational opportunities and pathways to jobs and skills/apprentice placements.
Bob Woollard is a qualified planner, with experience in both the private and public sector, Bob headed up a local authority development control department before becoming a consultant in 2005. As a Director with consultants Planning and Design Group, he has managed client planning projects covering the full range of sectors, guiding major proposals through the planning process. In recent years he has been increasingly involved in the promotion of major urban extension sites and urban regeneration schemes. Bob has given expert evidence to many planning inquiries and call-in inquiries and has given evidence to both Regional Plan and Local Development Document examinations. He lived at Midland Avenue as a student, and then at Priory Mews for several years. Every Saturday morning he can be found at Lenton swimming pool.
Round Table Programme
Prior to the round table meeting, participants and others were invited to share with one another their ideas about Lenton and especially the ‘changing Lenton: Lenton’s housing’ theme, and this appendix is made up of those pre-meeting responses.
A Summary of the Key Issues
[Nottingham Action Group on HMOs, November 2013Note 7]
Lenton faces three key issues which have to be addressed if any regeneration work is to stand the test of time. These are:
1. Difficulty for people to access longer, most stable housing options. There is a relatively low supply of ‘affordable’/social housing in the area which would provide longer term tenancies at relatively low cost. Housing in the private rented sector is expensive and thus hard to access for reasons of affordability.
Also, house prices coupled with environmental and social problems together make Lenton unaffordable/unattractive to people looking to buy for owner-occupation.
2. Demographic Imbalance. The population profile is significantly out of kilter with the average profile you might expect in Greater Nottingham, or indeed in England, with much higher percentages of younger people than would be the norm.
3. Transience. Large numbers of short term residents living in the area for limited periods of time, and often moving within the area regularly.
These three factors combine to create a set of issues that make it very difficult to address the problems in the area.
Lenton offers a broadly attractive housing offer. It has a lot of desirable housing, including family-type homes with gardens, with much ‘Victorian’, ‘inter-war’ style and more modern properties widely considered to be attractive. There are small pockets of more modest terraced housing, but in general, Lenton’s housing is the equal of very desirable neighbourhoods elsewhere in Nottingham, such as in Wollaton, Sherwood or West Bridgford.
It has many of the ingredients for a stable, desirable and ‘well mixed’ neighbourhood.
However, a short look around Lenton does not present this picture. All too often the impression is one of unkempt gardens, litter and dumped rubbish, and many properties that are not cared for in the way one might expect. It does not seem like a desirable neighbourhood These are in part symptoms of transience. It is hard for people who are not planning or able to live in the same place for a long time to be expected to care for the places where they live in the same way as someone who sees their long term future in the neighbourhood. For new residents this might seem ‘normal for Lenton’, but it has a corrosive effect. With large numbers of homes occupied by people who are unable to live in them long term, the problem is magnified. On certain streets there may only be a few, if any, people who have lived on the street for more than five years.
Yet Lenton is expensive. Homes in the UK are not easily compared on a price per square metre of floor space, properties being more usually marketed by the number of bedrooms, but it is likely that house prices in Lenton are amongst the most expensive in the city. This is because the housing market is essentially distorted. Property prices are not set by the more common factors found in local housing markets, but by factors more relevant to the private rental investment market, and in particular a sub set of that market, which is the rental returns generated by multi occupancy where residents occupy a relatively small share of accommodation in a larger property. This creates a situation where people who may wish to buy homes in the area for long term personal occupation (owner occupiers, or those wishing to become owner occupiers) cannot afford to do so. Those who might wish to rent as single people, couples or families find it hard to do so as property for rent is geared up to groups of people sharing. Rents are unaffordable to any other type of household.
Social housing would offer lower rent property, but the area has not traditionally had high numbers of such homes, and over the years the ‘Right to Buy’ has reduced numbers.
These factors, along with demand from the nearby University sites and to a lesser extent the QMC hospital have ‘priced out’ people from much of the local housing stock. This has contributed to demographic imbalance.
Imbalance (of whatever sort) is not generally considered to be desirable for long term community cohesion. For neighbourhoods to function well they need a balance of population, particularly in terms of age group, household type and tenure. It is important for neighbourhoods to offer housing for rent, and housing for people to share who wish to do so, but this needs to be in the context of a wider choice of housing that different people can access in different ways (short term renting, long term renting, low cost renting and owner occupation).
The challenge that must be faced is how these three issues: affordability, imbalance, and transience can be tackled within the context of the current forces that affect the area.
Most regeneration challenges are about creating a desirable neighbourhood out of one where wider forces have left it undesirable (the collapse of a housing market, the decline of local sources of employment etc). Lenton faces a different challenge, how it can be made more desirable to more people within the context of the issues outlined above, and in the context of reduced public funds for the organisations that traditionally lead on regeneration issues.
NOTE 7: This summary of the key issues facing Lenton today has been prepared on behalf of the Nottingham Action Group on HMOs by a member who was unable to attend the ‘Changing Lenton: Lenton’s Housing’ Round Table held on Friday, 29 November, 2013.
[Jackie Sadek, UK Regeneration, November 2013]
UK Regeneration is planning a new development on the site of the Sandfield Centre in Lenton. Jackie Sadek, UKR’s Chief Executive, explains the thinking behind the innovative approach and how the plans will help regenerate the 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, collaborating with the facilities in the Marcus Garvey Centre.
- Meeting rooms/function rooms both for the 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 the NAG for 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.
Findings from UNIPOL Research into Student Residence & Housing Market Changes in Nottingham
[Huw Jones, re’new, November 2013]
- Research shows that there was movement of students into Lenton over the period up to 2008 and an expansion of HMO accommodation, but this may have been offset by the gradual supply of PBSA (Purpose Built Student Accommodation) especially that around the University of Nottingham campus and within the city centre.
- There is evidence of students leaving some parts of Lenton (Lenton Triangle and The Drives) and also ‘moving around’ the area maybe linked to new PBSA provision – i.e. to areas close to Faraday Road.
- While there is evidence of students moving from Lenton, the research also shows that returning HMOs to ‘family housing’ will be difficult.
- In The Drives and the Park Estate, there are prospects for changing occupancy and encouraging back residential households where ‘family housing’ types predominate, but this may depend to attracting households with equity as prices and mortgage restrictions may frustrate first time buyers.
- In the Lenton Triangle, there are ‘housing market barriers’ and ‘housing and environmental quality barriers’ to achieving transformation
- House prices are relatively high and are increasing (there was a 10% increase between September 2011 – September 2013)
- A single income of £32,000 or a joint income of £38,000 is needed to afford entry level housing
- Saving a deposit for entry level housing would take average earners 4.5 years, and bottom 25% earners 14 years and increasing house prices will mean higher deposits are required to enter the market frustrating ‘buy-in’ from first time buyers
- Market rents for single occupation are high, making sharing a more viable option for young tenants
- Property types and streetscape and environment may not be attractive to families
- Properties often have no gardens
- Properties may require major refurbishment
- The streetscape is often shabby and unappealing
- There is a negative image and reputation of the area
Options for Action
- There needs to be agreement about the desired extend of the shared housing market in Lenton in future, and on how to manage demand shifts and ‘student flight’.
- Partnership mechanisms need to be developed to:
- Investigate what could be used to transform Lenton as students move out;
- Encourage ‘family builders’ to live in the area either as home owners or renters;
- Encourage some shared housing aimed at young working households, young working couples or mixed households;
- Encourage new house types and designs where land is available, including low density Purpose Built housing aimed at students or young sharing professionals;
- Secure investment in terraced housing to improve physical conditions and energy efficiency/fuel saving, and improve their attractiveness to potential ‘incomers’;
- Bring empty properties in the area back into use either for purchase or letting including conversion of very large terraced houses to flats aimed at ‘family builders’;
- Consider self-build, renovate initiatives and Eco-housing;
- Encourage streetscape and environmental improvement;
- Implementation of the Article 4 Direction needs to ensure that home owners are not trapped in ‘unsellable’ homes.
- Landlords need to be supported and encouraged to help them let to new markets.
- There needs to be effective management of young residents and potentially conflicting lifestyles of residents.
- The image and reputation of the area needs to be improved.
Particular Areas of Interest
[Giles Inman, Business Development Manager, EMPO, November 2013]
A Plan to House Families: Nottingham City Council (NCC) needs to urgently address what actions will be taken particularly with student HMO landlords to encourage them to consider family tenants as purpose built student accommodation increasingly impacts the Private Rented Sector (PRS) in Lenton.
Promotion of Housing Association PRS Partnerships: Residential Property Lease Agreements- 3-5 yrs terms, targeting properties in Lenton that can with minimal investment return to rented family housing.
A Site for a New Housing Development in Lenton: Houses, ranging from two bedrooms to six, would all include a sizeable garden and at least one car parking space, the site would include allotments, play space and an ecology space.
Lenton-Perception: A more robust approach is required by NCC to highlight the successes various PRS regulatory initiatives has achieved in tackling problems associated with housing in Lenton. A failure to address this as part of the overall vision for improving Lenton will result in Lenton not achieving the collective objective of becoming a sustainable, inclusive and mixed community.
Why Change Lenton?
[Maya Fletcher, November 2013]
- Interest in ‘Changing Lenton’: The Fletcher family lives in Lenton and has done so since the late 1970’s when, just as we had given up looking for a home not to far from the city centre and at a price we could afford, we stumbled upon a house in the Lenton Gardens estate: modern, detached, three-bedroom, well looked after and with a garden and garage. And with an asking price just on the upper limit of what our mortgage offer would permit. Some years later, when changing circumstances meant that we needed to look for another house, again by chance, we came across our present home, almost literally just down the road from Lenton Gardens.
- Understanding of the Issues: As people who live in a neighbourhood which, in the early 2000’s, went from being stable and predominantly owner-occupied to one where the concentration of HMOs is well over 25%, the Fletcher family has what you could call ‘hands on’ experience of the problems associated with HMOs. It is why it, and I in particular, became involved in the formation of the NAG in 2004 and in the subsequent local and national campaigns for changes to housing and planning legislation, as well as in ways in which HMO-related problems can be tackled on the ground.
- Experience: As a member of the NAG, I have campaigned alongside members of the National HMO Lobby, MPs, councillors and local authority officers for changes to national legislation. In Nottingham I have engaged with councillors and council officers to ensure that changes in national legislation are implemented in the City. Also as a member of the NAG, I continue to work with other stakeholders to improve the quality and management of HMOs, and to improve the quality of life for HMO tenants and other residents living in neighbourhoods where HMOs make an impact.
- Focus on Lenton and Housing: Apart from the fact that I live in the area and have a stake in its future, my reasons for focusing on Lenton and specifically on housing are:
- That Lenton is geographically compact enough to make it a manageable proposition, whilst also having sufficient diversity to make experience gained in changing Lenton applicable elsewhere;
- That, although there are many different things which contribute to the long-term viability of an area (e.g. schools, facilities, infrastructure), the foundation is housing and its ability to provide the ‘right’ home.
- Vision for Lenton: My experience makes me believe that Lenton is a place which should and can become somewhere that people choose to come to live, to work and to study, and, as such, is capable of contributing positively to the future prosperity of the City of Nottingham as a whole. My reasons for this belief are based on
- The potential, if fully realised, of Lenton to help alleviate Nottingham’s stated shortage of good quality, ‘family’ housing and thus reduce the drift away from the City into Greater Nottingham, and ease pressure on Green Belt land;
- Because of the range of its housing stock its ability (again if fully used) to accommodate the projected diverse accommodation requirements of owner-occupiers and people who seek to rent their homes;
- Its location close to the city centre, local parks, and its inherent ‘village/suburban’ feel;
- Its good (and improving) public transport links, access to the national road network and an international airport;
- Its proximity to some of Nottingham’s largest employers and potential generators of new and good quality jobs
- Lenton’s Profile: Lenton’s image today is largely of a place which is run down, with skewed demographic, socio-economic and tenure profiles, highly specialised retail and business outlets, an overheated and over-priced housing market, with an outsider’s perception that because of these factors and the inherent transience caused by large numbers of HMOs, this is not an area which is likely to be a ‘good place to live’ for people who want to establish homes and families.
- Realising the Vision: In order to realise the vision of a changed Lenton, the factors which contribute to Lenton’s degraded profile are what have to be changed. Also, realistically changing Lenton from what it is now to what it could be is not going to be simple, and the changes will not happen in a short period of time. However, some of the tools needed to facilitate the transition are already in place, e.g.
- Until recently the lack of housing and planning legislation alongside factors such as a continuing increase in demand for HMOs (predominantly for undergraduate students), shortage of alternative student housing, favourable buy-to-let mortgages has mitigated against any attempts to bring about changes in Lenton. This is no longer the case.
- National legislation is in place and is being implemented locally.
- The intake of students by Nottingham’s two universities has levelled off significantly reducing any potential demand for further HMO accommodation;
- Also, the supply of purpose built student housing has increased to the point at which some, though not all, returning students have the option to choose to live in HMOs or in purpose built developments, with purpose built development rents beginning to come in line with those in the private (HMO) rented sector;
- Accreditation schemes designed to improve the quality of the private rented sector offer have been or are being developed, and controls on letting boards, improved cleansing regimes and Community Protection initiatives are beginning to reduce the visual impact of HMOs in some, if not all, of Lenton’s neighbourhoods;
- The demolition of the Lenton flats and its replacement by a mixture of affordable family housing should help to begin changing the current perceptions of Lenton.
What I believe is now needed (with the aim in mind of producing a staged, timetabled and medium to long term development plan) is:
- first and foremost, the willingness to accept that Lenton can (and must) change;
- to decide on a vision of Lenton that can be shared by the majority of stakeholders and to which there is real commitment;
- to produce detailed information about existing housing, e.g. housing type, location, tenure, housing market trends in the area;
- to identify sites for potential future development as housing or for employment/education purposes;
- innovative and novel new build family housing with new, non-standard approaches to selling and financing;
- to find what research with relevance to the issue at hand has already been carried out, what recommendations have been made, and, most importantly, to discover what practical, on-the-ground schemes to deal with changing housing use, etc. are in place and operating elsewhere, and to learn from these.
- To bring forward practical ideas for projects (and funding) to support all of the above points.
Thoughts & Questions
With no particular structure:
- What kept me in Lenton after I finished being a student?
- What would have kept me there as a growing family?
- Is there a danger that in moving students out of Lenton they will be replaced by less desirable tenants?
- How do you turn a student economy into a resident economy?
- Are families put off by the quality of the schools or the parents at the school gates?
- How do you capture the families that might visit Lenton, but would not consider living there?
- How do you make Lenton aspirational?
- How do you make Lenton a place and destination?
- Can it be marketed better as a place for families?
- What are the factors that spark gentrification?
- How can they be encouraged?
- Should Lenton be a white, middle class suburb? Is that what families want?
Putting Lenton in Context