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Building Inspired Homes In Thriving Kent Locations

Posted 1 December 2021 by Lizzie Leigh

We hear how Quinn Estates is proud to be creating generational opportunities in Kent, to stand the test of time...

Luke Mullaney of WhatHouse? Small Housebuilder of the Year 2021, Quinn Estates, tells us how planning ahead pays in the Kent community

Luke, can you tell us a bit about your role at Quinn Estates?

I joined Quinn Estates as a chartered surveyor, specialising in development appraisals for acquisitions, viability and disposals. However, fairly quickly after joining I also took on the head of sales role, helping to oversee the growth of our emerging housing brand: Quinn Homes.

As a Kent-based business, you’ve seen a lot of gentrification within the coastal towns, how has this enhanced the area?

We currently have a number of sites live in coastal towns and have therefore witnessed their boom first-hand. The Kent coastal towns have been showered with national recognition in the past decade, and Deal is a fantastic example of that. Once a sleepy smuggler town, Deal has been recognised by the largest tabloids in the country with awards as one of the best coastal locations in Britain, as well as awards for the High Street which is now littered with wine bars, thriving pubs, restaurants and boutique shops. Our scheme is in the middle of the town [Pottery Grove] and we have been delighted by the amount of local buyers moving into our properties, showing that the gentrification is led as much by the locals as those coming from elsewhere. This effect has been seen in numerous locations along the coast, and it has been brilliant to watch these towns thrive again.

Pottery GrovePottery Grove

What lengths does Quinn Estates go to ensure its new homes are in keeping with other styles of local architecture?

As a smaller housebuilder we are unrestricted by standard house types and work with award-winning architects to ensure our schemes sit effortlessly within their setting. We build a variety of properties ranging from apartments in urban areas to huge heritage restorations. We ensure that each scheme is designed to not only ‘blend’ with its surroundings but also enhance them. An excellent example of this is Hammill Park, a restoration of a former brickworks site. The detached houses here met a design code of natural materials including timber and slate which sat beautifully in the rural setting, but the crown jewel was the restoration of two former engine sheds. These were transformed into award-winning terraced houses, and our attention to detail was captured in the landscaping where we used original “Hammill” imprinted bricks to lay the paths winding through the houses on site – a touch recognised by all purchasers and a nod to heritage through design.

As a company, you’re heavily involved on the planning stage of new builds; do you feel this gives you a better understanding of what’s required and wanted within the local communities?

Absolutely. This is without doubt one of our core principles. Our expertise and grounding in strategic planning has led to us engaging with communities in Kent for decades, and this is often the starting point of our schemes. What this means is that residents on our future schemes will live in houses designed around the community – whether that be a new Co-operative convenience store, a GP surgery, a nursery, an apprenticeship centre, a scout hut or an entirely new sports hub. All of these are examples of things we have delivered following community engagement. We also look to help those who cannot directly benefit from a relocation to our sites, and have often signed over land to local authorities, schools and wildlife trusts. It is our aim to deliver schemes that enhance communities, improving the facilities for existing residents and aiming to draw new personalities to the area.

Tell us about the sports hub you’re proud to have created at Herne Bay as part of a scheme that was built there.

Herne Bay remains one of our proudest schemes, which delivered a mixed-use extension to the south of the town. We achieved planning consent on the site for residential dwellings, retail, offices, a care home and a pub, but the key element sitting proudly in the centre of the scheme is the new sports hub. Through early engagement with the community we realised there was a generational opportunity to locate a variety of sports clubs in the town to a new hub, centred around a brand new pavilion building. The sports hub cost approximately £10million to deliver and was signed over to the sports clubs for £1, providing a permanent home for youth football, tennis, hockey and cricket clubs and a focal point for the sporting community in the town. This is an example of a scheme where we brought the site forward through planning and, several years later, are now on site delivering our own award-winning apartments at Eddington Park. Some of our new detached houses even benefit from entirely uninterrupted views over the cricket pitch, which proved to be extremely popular!

StonegateStonegate

Have you seen noticeable numbers of people moving out of London to buy in Kent, as a direct result of the pandemic and lockdown living?

There has certainly been an element of this which is hard to ignore. During the pandemic we did little to no advertising in London, as no one was using public transport, yet at some Quinn Homes sites over 50% of our buyers are from the London area. This means that these people were actively searching in the Kent locations or spending time in the county during lockdown, which would appear to be an active lifestyle choice. Many people have decided that lockdown was either a chance to return closer to home or relocate towards open space, but it is also a reflection of a trend which has been developing for several years whereby the Kent market has simply continued to become more desirable. The rise of the stay-cation has also driven more people from across the country to Kent’s coastal towns, which has seen them become ever-more popular.

Which schemes are you marketing at the moment and who are they likely to appeal to?

We currently have two large schemes live on the coast in Herne Bay and Deal, with two boutique schemes in Stelling Minnis [Stonegate] and Brookland [Brookland Grove offering more rural living. We are also awaiting the go-ahead to start a landmark scheme in Sellindge which we are aiming to launch next year. The coastal towns have experienced brilliant demand from local buyers and London buyers alike, for holiday homes, permanent homes and rentals, whilst the rural sites have also attracted young professionals and retirees. Every site we are currently live on has attracted huge numbers of first-time buyers, either through the Help to Buy scheme or the newly announced Starter Home scheme, as we strive to make our properties accessible to the entire market.

Are you offering any incentives to buyers?

We are currently offering Help to Buy on all our sites and have recently delivered our first Starter Home in line with new government policy. On sites where there are Shared Ownership units we often deliver these on behalf of a registered provider, as we are doing currently in Herne Bay. Other incentives we have offered in certain circumstances over the last 12 months included honouring the SDLT holiday for those under offer at the time, which allowed many people to make their dream move at a time when they may have otherwise been unable to do so. Our business model is both proactive to upcoming policies and reactive to market shifts, meaning we aim to be at the forefront of incentives in order to make our properties as accessible as possible.

Brookland GroveBrookland Grove

What do you think is the next big thing in new home builds, in terms of architectural style?

Without a doubt, environmental credentials. The climate is probably the loudest global conversation taking place at the moment, as it rightfully should be, and people are taking on the challenge in all walks of life – especially their own homes. Sustainability is becoming a key part of people’s decision making in looking at new homes, and as such is being designed into the very fabric of the building. Buyers’ concerns include topics such as rising gas prices, future government clampdowns on EPC ratings, and the ability to buy an electric car in future. We are pushing to not only listen to this discussion but also take a role in encouraging it. A number of our schemes benefit from air-source heat pumps, PV panels, electric car-charging points and wildlife reserves. We recognise the fact this is now a key consideration of our buyers and aim to integrate sustainability at an early design stage, but it is also a key consideration of ours as we continue to try to improve the communities in which we build.

And finally, what will be happening at Quinn Estate in the next 12 months?

In short, a lot! Quinn Estates currently has several live planning applications in, ranging from home extensions to new, sustainable garden town settlements as we continue to bring forward deliverable housing in Kent. Alongside this we are actively building several more community buildings at the heart of our schemes, and will be opening new convenience stores, surgeries, dentists and more with our partners in the next year. Finally, Quinn Homes is looking to build on the recent momentum of winning the Small Housebuilder of the Year award by building another 150 homes in some of Kent’s most desirable locations. We are looking forward to delivering future phases on our ongoing schemes, as well as launching our new scheme in Sellindge, and aim to continue providing award-winning homes for those making their dream move in Kent.

 

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