Our feu­dal Lords fol­low Charles’ ex­am­ple

They’ve sold all the fam­ily sil­ver so new homes are help­ing to pay for the roof re­pairs, says Ara­bella Youens

Evening Standard - West End Final Extra - ES Homes and Property - - First-time Buyers -

IT’S a truth uni­ver­sally ac­knowl­edged, at least among the landed classes, that own­ing and run­ning a large stately pile is a con­sid­er­able fi­nan­cial bur­den. When the pro­duc­ers of ITV’s Downton Abbey first ap­proached the Earl of Carnar­von in 2009 about a film­ing lo­ca­tion, High­clere Cas­tle was fac­ing a £12 mil­lion re­pair bill, of which £1.8 mil­lion was needed ur­gently.

Over at Blen­heim Palace, it costs an as­ton­ish­ing £1 mil­lion just to paint the doors and win­dows (ex­te­rior only).

Gen­tle as­set strip­ping is one route to­wards pay­ing for a new roof: in 2015, the Howard fam­ily raised £12 mil­lion at Sotheby’s to fund re­pairs for Cas­tle Howard in York­shire and se­cure the long-term fu­ture of the es­tate. These days, it is pop­u­lar to run some sort of in­comegen­er­at­ing busi­ness from such prop­erty — from host­ing wed­dings to fash­ion shoots and mu­sic con­certs.

The Earl of March, who bril­liantly runs the Good­wood Es­tate on the Sus­sex Downs, is one of the most suc­cess­ful landed en­trepreneurs, with a hugely pop­u­lar race course and an­nual fes­ti­vals of clas­sic and vin­tage cars, as well as a golf club, an ho­tel and an or­ganic farm.

With a firm eye on in­come gen­er­a­tion, and an­other on Bri­tain’s shortage of hous­ing, and maybe even a feu­dal hang­over over re­spon­si­bil­ity for pro­vid­ing hous­ing for lo­cal peo­ple, landown­ers are be­gin­ning to re­lease acres for house build­ing. How­ever, in­stead of selling land to the high­est bid­der and watch­ing the vil­lage re­volt as a drab, red-brick es­tate de­stroys their neigh­bour­hood, landown­ers are be­ing more strate­gic.

Clas­si­cal ar­chi­tect Hugh Pet­ter, of ADAM Ar­chi­tec­ture, has de­signed 20,000 to 25,000 houses on landed es­tates across the coun­try. “With a dif­fer­ent way of go­ing into con­tract with house-build­ing firms — selling land off in phases, with the landowner re­tain­ing con­trol by sign­ing off ev­ery stage — the landown­ers can con­trol the qual­ity of the out­come and hus­band the long-term value, both so­cial and eco­nomic.” Other ar­chi­tec­tural prac­tices and de­sign­ers favoured for schemes in­clude Ben Pen­treath, John Simp­son and ESHA. Landown­ers are keen to fol­low Prince Charles’s Duchy of Corn­wall model — par­tic­u­larly his Nansledan scheme, the 218-acre ex­ten­sion to Newquay which has been dubbed the “Pound­bury of Corn­wall”, a project which will de­liver 4,000 houses on farm­land over a 40-year life­span. At its core is a com­mit­ment to spend the money in Corn­wall, us­ing lo­cal labour and ma­te­ri­als and a pat­tern book with typ­i­cal Cor­nish ver­nac­u­lar de­tails, as well as pro­vid­ing schools, surg­eries and green spa­ces.

The plans in­clude set­ting up a town farm in some listed build­ings to pro­vide food for res­i­dents of the devel­op­ment. The plan has been met by very lit­tle lo­cal ob­jec­tion and new home buy­ers like it, es­pe­cially as re­sale prices are gen­er­ally higher than those in neigh­bour­ing ar­eas.

The Govern­ment’s re­cent hous­ing White Pa­per didn’t, be­lieves Pet­ter, look hard enough at the un­der­ly­ing is­sues of the causes of the cri­sis: the lam­en­ta­ble qual­ity of much new­build devel­op­ment, 80 per cent of which is cur­rently de­liv­ered by vol­ume house builders with short­term in­vest­ment cy­cles.

Nicholas Boys Smith, of the so­cial en­ter­prise Cre­ate Streets, agrees: “Politi­cians try­ing to solve the hous­ing cri­sis have been ask­ing the wrong ques­tions. In­stead of, ‘How do we build more homes?’, they should have been ask­ing, ‘How do we make new homes more at­trac­tive?’.”

To a cer­tain de­gree, the an­swer is by re­as­sur­ing lo­cals that their opin­ions will be taken into con­sid­er­a­tion and that the new builds will fit in with the ex­ist­ing town or vil­lage. “No one wants a Lit­tle Chef in their back yard,” says Tom Hud­son, of Mid­dle­ton Ad­vi­sors.

Jamie Bland­ford, dubbed the “Duke of Mor­tar”, plans to build 1,600 homes on the edge of Wood­stock, part of his Blen­heim es­tate, even­tu­ally dou­bling the size of the town. An orig­i­nal pro­posal met with fierce ob­jec­tion from the town, but has since been re­vised and the first tranche of 300 houses, built by a lo­cal builder with Cotswold stone, with small shops and of­fices based around a neigh­bour­hood square, have just been given the green light by a vote of 9-2.

Prop­erty di­rec­tor Roger File says: “We’re do­ing our best to en­sure that this devel­op­ment will be to the ben­e­fit of ev­ery­one in Wood­stock.’’

A study by The Prince’s Foun­da­tion, Build­ing a Legacy, con­cludes that this ap­proach also makes fi­nan­cial sense. “Build­ing pop­u­lar places can ben­e­fit the landowner and the peo­ple who make a bet­ter profit through en­hanced re­sale val­ues, in some cases 20 or 30 per cent more than a stan­dard builder’s scheme over a three-year pe­riod. We are build­ing a com­mu­nity, not just houses,” says se­nior di­rec­tor Ben Bol­gar.

ADAM Ar­chi­tec­ture adamar­chi­tec­ture.com

Prince’s Foun­da­tion princes-foun­da­tion.org

Cre­ate Streets cre­at­estreets.com

Mid­dle­ton Ad­vi­sors mid­dle­t­on­ad­vi­sors.com

Nansledan, Newquay: a 1,000sq ft house in the Duchy of Corn­wall devel­op­ment costs £280,000, while 30 per cent of prop­er­ties are be­ing set aside as af­ford­able

Cash creator: it costs a £1 mil­lion just to paint the win­dows at Blen­heim Palace. For­tu­nately, the es­tate has room to build 1,600 new homes in Wood­stock, Oxon

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