Jansons Property managing director Andy Jansons answers some central questions on the developer’s latest project and the property market more generally.
Jansons is one of the first developers to bring forward plans to build homes on part of the West Eynsham Strategic Development Area (SDA) in West Oxfordshire, which has an allocation for 1,000 properties.
How will the Covid-19 crisis affect the West Eynsham scheme?
Covid-19 has been challenging for all of us, but it has been encouraging to see just how prepared people have been to adapt to this new environment and keep going. From the outset the Government has been clear that they expect the planning process to continue and in West Oxfordshire the council has an adopted Local Plan with sites that have been identified for development. At Jansons, we are keen to drive forward on our proposals in West Eynsham and to deliver the homes that people need and just last week we consulted with the community and the plans were well received.
What attracted Jansons to West Eynsham?
Our site in West Eynsham is actually part of much wider allocation known as the West Eynsham Strategic Development Area. We are just off the A40, opposite the proposed Park and Ride facility and just a few miles away from Oxford city – this is a great location for anyone looking to live and work in West Oxfordshire. If we get the proposals right, I think West Eynsham can be one of our best and proudest achievements.
What has the general reaction to your proposals been so far?
Since the council adopted its Local Plan almost two years ago, our team have been in extensive discussions with the council about our vision for West Eynsham – not just with planning officers, but with Eynsham Parish Council, local councillors and the Member of Parliament. I think everyone has appreciated our willingness to engage and come forward with sensible proposals that can benefit the whole of Eynsham and, on the whole, the proposals have been well received. We appreciate that development will not please everyone in the village but I do believe we have done our best to design something that is sensible, sensitive and in keeping with the surrounding area.
What are your thoughts on holding an online public consultation?
I appreciate that residents in Eynsham are well used to attending physical public consultations and indeed will already be aware of the West Eynsham SDA. By working with Curtin&Co to move our proposals online due to Covid-19, we have actually found that we have secured as much, if not even more, engagement from the community than we would otherwise have had. In addition to our project website, which launched last month and has been viewed by hundreds of residents, a newsletter went out to all residents in the village inviting them to attend an online presentation of the proposals and I’m pleased to say that almost 100 residents attended. For those that don’t have access to the internet, they were still able to communicate with us in the traditional way using the contact details provided and indeed many chose to do so.
How optimistic are you for the property sector, given the Covid-19 crisis?
Whilst it is still early days and the reality has not yet come through, the situation we are facing doesn’t seem to be the same as in 2008, where it was a direct result of the financial markets overheating. Quite rightly people are worried about the virus but the banks are well capitalised, interest rates are low and borrowing is cheap. Inevitably, there is going to be a pause for things to stabilise and settle, but we are feeling a lot more optimistic.
What sectors do you think offer the most potential for new schemes?
If we look at the UK sectors, there is still a huge demand for housing right now which is not going to go away. That’s not to say that there won’t necessarily be a temporary blip, where buyers and vendors assess where they are financially, but that will come back. Beyond housing, we continue to have an ageing population here in the UK and there is still strong demand for more later living accommodation. Another is food retail, where we see long leases in the discount food sector and, similar to 2008, there is a flight to quality long-term income and good covenants. In other words, investors are looking to invest where there is a decent and safe yield.
What areas of the country do you see as most interesting for a developer?
I think it’s going to take about a year for things to play out but, from a personal point of view, we are still very much excited by the opportunities that exist in the Thames Valley and West London, having successfully completed 38 projects since we started out in 2003. As people start to look for more space, not only to live in but to work in, we may start to see demand from development extending out of urban areas and to places like the Thames Valley.
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