Bringing the ‘Wavensmere Flair’ to Sites Across the UK

Posted 8 August 2019 by Lizzie Leigh

This week we talk to James Dickens, managing director of Wavensmere Homes, about his exciting Nightingale Quarter project in the heart of Derby...

James Dickens tells us how he hopes to bring the ‘Wavensmere flair’ to more sites across the UK – once his 18-acre dream development in the centre of Derby is brought to life.


Please tell us about your day-to-day role as managing director of Wavensmere Homes.

Every day is extremely varied and I get involved in all aspects of the business. I have an active interest in all facets of Wavensmere Homes from commercial, sales, construction, or the more technical side.  Each day I travel to different sites and I try to visit each site once a week to make sure each project is on track.

Your exciting project in the centre of Derby is now open for business – tell us all about Nightingale Quarter.

We acquired the site, formerly known as the Derby Royal Infirmary in July 2018, with outline planning permission for 477 dwellings. The site is just over 18 acres, and we were attracted to the development, not just because it’s a prime city centre location, but also because it has some interesting character buildings, which we will be retaining, which gives the site soul. We were keen to keep the historical heart of the site as this was extremely important to the local community.

Since acquiring the site, we have achieved a detailed planning permission for just under 800 units, which includes one and two bedroom apartments, and two and three bedroom houses.

This is a really exciting development for us and we believe it is one of the largest city centre sites in terms of area in the UK - but we have deliberately not over-crowded it. We felt that it was important to give the public lots of open space around their homes and where they will be living. We were also attracted to Derby for the location as it’s a city with strong commuter links and is known as the capital for innovation. Also, Derby enjoys the highest income per person outside of London due to employers surrounding the city, such as Rolls Royce, Bombardier and Toyota.

You’ve described Nightingale Quarter as being a ‘green oasis’ for its residents, how do you plan to achieve this?

We have measured the green open space in and around the development and this equates to around six acres. There will be tree-lined boulevards and walkways in and around the development, along with a cycleway around the perimeter of the site, which will link the arboretum through to the train station. In addition, there will be an outside gym and fitness area, children’s play area and landscaped grounds throughout the whole site.

Although it is in the city centre, we wanted residents to have a great space that didn’t feel like a metropolis, and they could have the benefits of all the local facilities on their doorsteps, but were able to retreat to their own haven, which feels like it’s more removed from city living.

The 18-acre site was formerly home to Derbyshire Royal Infirmary but has stood empty for many years; has news of the development been well-received by the local Derby community?

This absolutely has been welcomed with open arms by the local community, council and business owners. We have been astounded by the positive response so far to our plans and we hope to include the public as much as possible on every step of our journey.

The public's opinion of the Pepperpots and the DRI were very emotive as people were born, had family die, or had worked in this hospital for many years before it was moved and the site became derelict.

Tell us about the iconic Pepperpot structures of the building and how they will be repurposed for the whole community to enjoy.

Prior to our ownership, a previous landowner had tried to apply to demolish the Pepperpots, which are Victorian structures, that whilst aren’t listed, were obviously very important to the local community. They are a unique design which would be a shame to be lost, and we are very keen to restore these buildings and give them back to the community in the form of a cafe hub/exhibition space and indoor gym. They have become the symbol of the site, and that’s what we based the design of our Nightingale Quarter logo upon.

You have purposely chosen not to include new retail units within the scheme, why is this?

Being right in the heart of Derby with its incredible shops, restaurants and services, we deliberated for a long time on what else we could offer residents who were going to be buying and living here. One thing we knew that we couldn’t compete with was the array of stores that are on our doorstep, especially with intu Derby shopping centre and some great independents, so instead of us wanting to beat them, we wanted to create it as an extension of the city centre living and leave the existing businesses to thrive.

Who do you think these homes will appeal to?

These homes are going to be great for first-time buyers and for those wanting to get onto the housing market. Because it is so close to the train station and main routes to reach the rest of the country, it is perfect for people who work across the UK or locally. We have some incredible businesses in and around Derby with some very talented people working there, so it would be great for them to put some roots in a city that is supporting them on the career ladder. We also envisage investors from all over the country being attracted to the site – we will be offering something very different, so watch this space!

How will you be able to bring the unbuilt scheme to life for people who are interested in buying ‘off-plan’?

One of the great things about our business is that we have real vision and great attention to detail. It’s really important for us to be able to convey this to our potential purchasers and for them to be able to share in our vision before there is anything to see. With this in mind, we will be using state of the art technology so our buyers can have a ‘virtual reality’ experience like no other. The idea is to convert one of the Pepperpots initially into our marketing suite, and have a ‘play space’ available for people to use the property VR. We have also gone a step further with the DRI and we will have a full augmented reality platform for the entire site. This enables a purchaser to pick their plot, walk to it from, for example, a pepper pot and see what they are overlooking in real time - to top it off they can track the sun’s path they will enjoy throughout the year. Imagine going into a sales centre and being able to think, ‘will I get the sun in my garden when I get back from work on my birthday?’ Well, we have the answer!

And finally, what’s next for Wavensmere Homes?

We are very keen to acquire more sites – another site similar to Derby would be great, something with soul, character and in a location where we can bring a touch of the ‘Wavensmere flair’ to life. We are currently working on a few projects and will be able to discuss these very soon.

For more details about the build, visit www.qderby.co.uk

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