Housing association acquires site at Linmere development near Houghton Regis to deliver 100 affordable homes

The £4.75m deal will see bpha create 49 shared ownership and 51 affordable properties for rent

By Reporter
Monday, 6th September 2021, 2:19 pm
Updated Tuesday, 7th September 2021, 9:33 am

A housing association has completed the purchase of 4.06-acres to develop 100 new homes as part of a new 650-acre urban village being created near Houghton Regis.

The £4.75m deal will see bpha create 49 shared ownership and 51 affordable properties for rent comprising a mix of apartments and houses ranging from one bedroom through to three bedroom homes.

Work to build the homes is due to commence in April 2022, with the first homes being completed by August 2023. Completion of the development is anticipated in October 2024.

The Farmstead will be the central hub at Linmere with a café, park, community hall and retail units. Rendered illustration of the scheme. Credit / Copyright: HRMC

As part of the deal bpha will also deliver three retail units offering locally run shops, in line with Linmere's 20-minute neighbourhood strategy meaning that residents will never be more than a 20-minute walk or cycle ride away from community facilities, shops, schools and green spaces.

Jeff Astle, executive director of development and sales at bpha said: "We are very pleased to have acquired this site at Linmere and look forward to developing a high-quality scheme of much needed homes for shared ownership and affordable rent in this most sustainable location.

"We are grateful to Homes England for its financial support to ensure that the scheme can progress and we will be submitting a Reserved Matters Planning application to Central Bedfordshire Council shortly.

"With an anticipated start on site in April 2022, we will be seeking a construction partner before the end of this year."

CGI created by Avebury Architecture

The bpha homes are the latest affordable properties to be announced at the new Linmere development, which is being created over the next 15 years by the Houghton Regis Management Company (HRMC), a consortium comprising master developers Lands Improvement, Aviva Investors, and the Diocese of St Albans.

Linmere development director Nigel Reid said: "We're delighted to welcome bpha to the Linmere fold. With our focus on creating communities, the one hundred well designed tenure-blind affordable homes it is going to build will play a key role in ensuring we offer something for everyone.

"The site will also complement our ethos of ensuring that every single resident is only ever five minutes away from an open green space and needs to travel no further than 20 minutes on foot or bicycle to reach a shop selling everyday essentials."

The first homes at Linmere will be available for occupation in the autumn.

The shard of Roman pottery dating from the second or third century AD and the site of the archaeological dig at Linmere

> A key milestone of a new community hub under construction which is set to serve the Linmere development has been marked with a time-lapse video released by Lands Improvement Holdings (LIH).

The footage captures the four-month progress of The Farmstead which will be located in the heart of Linmere.

The Farmstead will consist of three barn-style buildings incorporating a café, a community hall, a retail area, a modern office and a shared workspace.

They will be arranged around a central courtyard and meeting place, and next to a nature-inspired children’s adventure playground.

Nigel Reid, development director of the Houghton Regis Management Company (HRMC), said: “Whether it’s catching up over a coffee in the commercial café, bringing the family to the adventure playground, renting out a space for a yoga class in the community hall or setting up a new business in the office spaces, The Farmstead is set to be the heart and soul of Linmere: a lively destination where residents, locals and visitors are welcome.

“We are delighted to have worked so closely with Ingleton Wood who have really helped bring the initial designs alive to create an exciting, safe and welcoming space.”

Peter Webb, director at Ingleton Wood, a property and construction consultancy that is supporting the scheme’s designs, said: “We have been working hard despite the unique challenges of the pandemic to ensure The Farmstead is designed to an incredibly high standard while ensuring it is future-proofed, sustainable and provides an amazing space for the new community.

“We will remain agile as we look forward to pressing ahead in close collaboration with the consortium to ensure we deliver this fantastic development for the region.”

Work is set to complete on The Farmstead at the end of this year when it is hoped that the community hub can host a range of seasonal events.

Around a third of the 650 acres will not be developed, with 90 acres of this being formal public open space. The rest will be managed land, allowing natural habitats to thrive.

The development will offer a combination of parkland, wildlife corridors, allotments, sports pitches, play areas and walking routes linking the new village with surrounding countryside and rural settlements. Cycle paths and cycle-friendly roads will crisscross the development and Linmere will also link in with the national cycle network.

Linmere will see the creation of 5,150 homes over the next 15 years. Two brand new state of the art primary schools and an extension to Houghton Regis' existing Thornhill Primary school, due to open this September. A ten-form secondary school will open in September 2022.

Meanwhile, archaeological excavations at the site on which Linmere is being developed give a tantalising glimpse into domestic life in previous centuries and millennia.

Archaeologists uncovered fascinating Stone Age and Roman remains at the new community.

Heritage experts, Bedford-based Albion Archaeology, partnered with Linmere developers before work began on the site and made numerous interesting discoveries which shed light on how previous generations lived in the area.

Intriguing finds include the 8,000-year-old horn of an auroch, wild cattle which became extinct in the UK in the Bronze Age, and a shard of pottery from a Roman flagon dating back to the second or third century which had an unexpected addition.

Albion Archaeology business manager Hester Cooper-Reade said: "The investigations have revealed a wealth of information about the life of the inhabitants of Linmere across nearly 8,000 years of history.

"The Latin inscription on the Roman flagon is an interesting and unusual find; it has been translated as ‘for a flagon of the gods Jupiter and Vulcan.' Perhaps it contained wine to refresh worshippers of these two gods."

Finds also included pits dating back to the late Mesolithic or early Neolithic periods of the Stone Age, evidence of houses, farmsteads and burials from the late Bronze Age or early Iron Age and several later Iron Age and Roman rural settlement sites. One of these contained drying ovens, houses, farmsteads, and burials. The excavations also revealed the remains of some Saxon buildings and evidence of mediaeval field systems.

After they have been studied by specialists, the finds from the dig will go to Luton's Wardown House museum.