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A Sign Of Success

Swans Nest sign sm

Some years ago we sat down to ponder what our legacy as house builders might be.  At the very basic level, we are creating homes for people to live in, but we are acutely aware that’s it’s more than that, writes Tony Abel.

What we do when we build new homes is create whole new communities.  How we design our sites, how they fit in with existing communities, and the extent to which we build in ‘liveability’ into our projects all have a bearing on how successful that new community will be.  It’s a responsibility we take very seriously.

I was reminded of this just two days ago, at our Swan’s Nest site in Swaffham, where we are building 250 new homes – the most substantial new community we have ever created.  On Wednesday we were delighted to unveil a brand new ‘village sign’, designed by students at the nearby Nicholas Hamond Academy, which will form the focal point of that new community.

This is the latest in our public artwork commissions, something we committed to do on each of the sites where we build new homes as part of that legacy thought process.  The Swaffham project is the seventh such artwork we have commissioned – and we are currently in the process of seeking an artist for the eighth, at our site in Hingham.

Our commitment is to commission a piece of public art from a local artist on every site where we build new homes.  These have ranged from a 20 foot high copper ‘tree’ to a sculpture made from old gardening gloves, from a life-sized shire horse mural made from found farm implements to a nautical-themed public bench.

Our aim is to create a focal point for each new community, somewhere where people might meet and chat.  That is a function traditionally fulfilled by a village sign, so the latest artwork (the first time we have commissioned an actual village sign) is very appropriate.

It is simply not enough for developers to put up the bricks and mortar, take the money and run; I believe we have a wider responsibility than that.  Everything we do should be undertaken in the knowledge that buildings are ultimately about people, and people are always happiest when they are part of thriving, mutually-supportive communities.

Last week we received an unsolicited email from a gentleman who lives in Hingham.  It read, “You can probably understand my apprehension about a new estate being built...  I drive past your site and the planners and architects have been very sympathetic to the surroundings and local residents...  Your development should make your company very proud of its achievement.”

Of course, we are in the business of selling houses, creating employment, and making a reasonable profit (which we plough back into the local economy).  But for that business to be sustainable, we cannot ignore our community obligations.  Being able to be proud of what we have created is a legacy I will happily accept.