The positive news is that Retirement Villages Group (“RVG”) have acquired the Sheer House Complex. RVG are one of the UK’s leading developers of homes for later living and are wholly owned by AXA S.A., a major international insurance group. Upon the completion of the development the investment in the centre of West Byfleet will be £90 million.
Wade Pollard, Keith Creswell and Stewart Dick attended a West Byfleet Business Association Zoom meeting on 8th July together with the RVG Planning and Project Directors and representatives from Keeble Brown who are public relation consultants handling the public interface on behalf of RVG.
The Planning position: An outline planning consent which sets out a range of key parameters already exists. As RVG have announced, they propose several alterations to this permission and in particular the change to 200 retirement apartments. They are confident that these changes are minor. This will enable RVG to be on track to submit the reserved matters application towards the end of 2020. The reserved matters application will cover ‘look and feel’ and more detailed matters.
RVG covered the intention to provide leisure facilities, such as a fitness or wellness centre, and they are very keen to make this available to all and not just the Sheer House residents. They stressed that a big part of supporting a thriving village community into old age is ensuring fitness and well-being.
Concerning common space – this is exactly the sort of question that they are keen to explore with local people. The RVG project team is very conscious of the importance of creating a busy, interesting public square that offers an attractive destination and appeals to all generations. They have established that there is a much public support for this approach and so they are hopeful that, working together, RVG can make something that everyone in the community can be proud of.
They also covered timescales and disturbance issues. Once work on the site commences some disturbance is inevitable but they will keep to sociable hours and will make a contact available for any concerns or problems arising. If anyone would like to report a problem to RVG, they can either call freephone 0800 061 4979 or email email@example.com.
Demolition and construction timetable: RVG have confirmed that while demolition could commence later this year there are several quite complex steps to resolve and perhaps 2021 is more realistic. Once the actual construction commences it will take approximately 24 months with a further 6 months for fit out. Of course, at this early stage in the process any timetable will be subject to revision.
RVG will soon be announcing a public Zoom event when they will be able to answer questions and explain their approach in more detail. This should be in a couple of weeks. They are asking any member of the community to register their details on the new project website: http://sheerhouseredevelopment.co.uk/ so that they can send out invitations to the Zoom meeting by email.
RVG with their Facebook page etc. are clearly interested in the views of the community, willing to listen and wishing to be a long-term community partner. They have stressed that they are not just developers but are managing an ongoing business which involves a continuing commitment to the West Byfleet community. They have vast experience in this sector and their engagement with the community is to be applauded.
Although some have expressed concern with the mass of the buildings, particularly those fronting onto the Old Woking Road, as noted above planning permission has already been granted. The overriding feeling is pleasure that a new committed and well funded developer is moving things forward quickly to re-energise the centre of West Byfleet.