Clarion Kirkstall

Ahead of their involvement in our York & North Yorkshire Development Plans Event we caught up with Clarion Housing Group. Group Director of Development Richard Cook answers our questions on their plans to develop 4,000 homes per year across the UK, creating a community feeling through their development style and their approach to modern methods and digital construction…

Q. Clarion Housing Group is the country’s largest housing association whilst also being a major developer in their own right – tell us a little about the business and how it’s become so successful?

The mission of Clarion Housing group is to provide good quality, affordable homes and communities to people failed by the market. Our history dates back more than 100 years, to William Sutton, a Victorian philanthropist who gave his entire personal fortune to provide social housing to those in need. We believe our success and longevity is a result of the time we take to understand how communities work, so we can build and invest for the long-term.

Q. How many of the homes you aim to build in the next year are set to be developed across Yorkshire? [emaillocker id=”71749″]

We have a medium to long-term ambition of building 4,000 homes per year across the country. Clarion currently has a pipeline of approximately 1,500 homes confirmed in Leeds at our Kirkstall Road scheme and a further 279 in York at The Cocoa Works. We recently acquired the land adjacent to this development, an 11 acre brownfield site we’ve named ‘Cocoa West,’ where we plan to deliver more family housing to complement the existing scheme with building works starting next year. We’re also currently exploring further sites in Harrogate and Leeds.

Q. You’re known for delivering high-quality homes which are also affordable for people usually priced out of the market – what’s your secret to be a leading organisation in this area?

We are committed to building high quality homes of all tenures. Clarion believes in mixed communities, where people living in social housing, shared ownership and homes for private sale live together. As well as a commitment to quality, what sets Clarion apart from other developers is the fact that profits made from the sale of private homes do not go to shareholders, they are reinvested back into delivering more affordable housing.

Q. Are you looking to utilise MMC across these builds and if so, how are you approaching this?

We have a specialist team in the business focused on incorporating digital design techniques and MMC in our projects. Last year around 25% of our projects utilised forms of MMC in their build.  Over the next 5 years we would expect that proportion to increase significantly as the industry adapts to more off site construction techniques and the depth of the supply chain  increases .

Q. Over 350,000 people call a Clarion house their own – how do you manage to successfully create a feeling of community across so many properties so well?

Clarion is more than just a landlord. To help create a sense of community we invest in the public realm and local facilities that our residents value. Our Cocoa Works in York development is a great example, as well as building hundreds of homes, we are restoring the Joseph Rowntree library for public use – a building with a rich history and now an exciting future.

The library has been left unused and in a state of disrepair for many years, but we will transform it into a new residents’ lounge complete with a concierge, shared workspaces and even a café with an outside pavilion.

Q. With so many properties the current focus on retrofitting properties must be on the agenda – how will Clarion approach this and how else is Clarion Housing Group leading the way on helping to fight the climate crisis?

Sustainability is hugely important to our organisation. Our ‘Clarion 2040’ strategy will see us improve the energy efficiency of tens of thousands of our existing homes, many of which are more than 50 years old. At the same time we are committed to developing low carbon new homes and embracing new technology which moves us further towards net zero carbon.

Q. One of the largest projects the firm are working on across Yorkshire is Cocoa Works which will be one of Yorkshire’s largest shared ownership schemes helping to transform the former Rowntree factory into much-needed homes. Tell us a little about the project and where it’s up to?

We are pleased and privileged to be transforming the iconic former Rowntree Factory site on York’s Haxby Road into a new community in which to live and work called The Cocoa Works. The factory, built by Joseph Rowntree in the early 1890s, has been empty and unused for a number of years but will be revitalised by Latimer, Clarion’s development arm. This is a completely unique scheme for our business on a site which has huge regional and even global significance. We have a wonderful opportunity as a business to reimagine a modern community, incorporating homes, gardens and communal spaces, continuing the legacy left by the former Rowntree factory and family.  

Of the 279 homes at The Cocoa Works 84 will be available via Shared Ownership. This is on offer to provide viable affordable options for people wanting to get on the housing ladder – something I am particularly passionate about. Lack of affordable housing across cities like York has been widely documented, which is why we want to provide high-quality options for those who couldn’t ordinarily afford to live in these locations.   

Q. What else are Clarion Housing Group working on across Yorkshire?

We’re very excited about the 13-acre acre brownfield site between the River Aire and Kirkstall Road we acquired in August 2020, which currently has planning consent for a residential mixed-use scheme incorporating around 1,000 homes and student accommodation. We’re working with leading architects Broadway Malyan to create an exciting redesign to completely regenerate this area creating a wider sense of community and broad mixture of tenures for future residents including affordable housing, student housing and rented options. We’re also looking to reinstate a bridge across the River Aire for greater connectivity across the city district. 

Q. Tell us a little about Clarion Futures; set up to help people access employment and training opportunities to have a better start in life…?

Clarion Futures is the charitable foundation of Clarion Housing Group and it does inspiring work with our residents and their communities. Our employment support programme provides Clarion residents with free training and support, to help them back into employment. We have continued to provide this service throughout the pandemic and despite all the challenges in the labour market, we are proud to have helped more than 950 people into work since April this year.