Find the land
Buying the right land in the right location is crucial to creating great places to live.
Having previously developed earlier phases of the former airbase, the Chapelford Village land was already known to us, and David Wilson Homes purchased the entire site in 2003.
My role is quite a wide-ranging position, where I need to understand various aspects of the house building sector; Legal, Sales, Commercial and business-related disciplines, in order to bring a site like this forward.
Senior Land Manager
Appraise and acquire the land
Land and Development
A large acquisition like Chapelford Village involves a great deal of due diligence, so numerous meetings were held with Defence Estates, the Council and key stakeholders. The Land and Development team worked around the clock to ensure that we moved from preferred developer to owner. It was key to our bid that we did not propose deferred terms, which was very important to Defence Estates.
It was down to the Planning team to deliver planning consents for the entire Chapelford Urban Village development. Initially, this involved consulting with five local resident groups who represented thousands of people from the area, as well as many other key stakeholders. The former RAF Burtonwood Airbase was hugely important to Warrington in the years following World War Two, and the local community were very interested in what was to become of the former airbase.
Chapelford provided the opportunity for us to take community consultation to a whole new level and we produced exhibitions, newsletters, videos, and websites. Developing a close relationship with the Burtonwood Heritage Association, we assured them we’d make every effort to reflect the history of the airbase in the new site.
All our sites have ISO14001 certified Environmental Management Systems.
I’ve been responsible for liaising with the community, local authority officers, councillors, and all the key stakeholders from the outset. Forming close relationships with all concerned helped us to reach agreement in advance of the application submissions, which ensured that the applications were approved in good time for us to get on site and develop.
Due to the size of the Chapelford site, development phases were agreed at the outset, classified as low, medium or high density and appraised accordingly. A separate infrastructure budget of £33m was established to allow for all highways, utilities, fees, demolition, POS landscaping, etc.
I've been involved with the Chapelford project right from the beginning; from before we purchased the site through to current day – primarily looking at viabilities, re-plans and maximising the performance of the site.
Given the size of the development, we needed to understand the demand in the immediate area for property. This was a vital part of ensuring we would be able to drive significant sales from the development and ensure a strong return on investment. It was down to our Sales team to understand the impact such a development would have on the local community and what infrastructure had been outlined from a planning perspective to support the development and our prospective purchasers.
The duties which I have include liaising with contractors and with the Council, making sure the foundations are installed correctly, and that the roads are constructed properly; ensuring they get adopted and handed over to the Council as quickly as possible.
Technical and Construction
The land required extensive demolition and remediation to prepare the development for the construction of infrastructure. To support and service the development, it was down to our Technical and Construction teams to design individual phases to connect into the existing network.
The best thing about my job is definitely starting off with a sketch design in 2D, and seeing that take shape on site, when people actually move into their homes.
The Chapelford development was made up of phased areas, identified as commercial, retail and residential. The housing phases were challenging due to the ground requiring remediation prior to construction, and a wide range of foundation solutions were used across the different phases.
Several phases were ongoing simultaneously, delivering a variety of products to allow the Sales department to achieve budget targets each year. At the height of construction we had a maximum of four outlets operating at the same time, delivering over 150 units each year. Each scheme had its own construction team and there was also a Contracts Manager in place to oversee the overall scheme. We’ve been working on the Chapelford development for over 12 years now and we’re approximately 12 months from final completion.
The training is extremely important for the job I do; you have got to be qualified to do the Site Management role. As site manager you are responsible for quite a lot of individuals on site.
Senior Site Manager
The Chapelford development incorporates all product types, ranging from standard houses to bespoke four-storey apartment blocks. Due to the nature and value of the infrastructure works, they were separately tendered and managed by the Commercial and Technical teams to ensure delivery of key project milestones within budget.
The Commercial team were required to manage costs across several live construction phases at any one time, requiring high levels of cooperation and interaction with site-based construction teams and real teamwork between all parties.
I set up all the initial subcontractors to do the works on-site. I agree all the prices with them, so we know, from a cost plan point of view, how much the project is going to cost.
Senior Project Surveyor
We are responsible for ordering the materials, plant, providing a service – mainly making sure the materials we do order are of a good quality, within budget, but obviously making the product the best that it can be at the end of the day.
The majority of the dwellings on Chapelford Village are predominately two-storey detached, and mews properties with a selected number of two and a half and three-storey dwellings. There are also areas which have a mixture of three and four-storey low rise apartments.
I think the Chapelford project has been unique because of the scope; the amount of properties that we've built on here – we’re now sold just over 2,000 properties.
Sell the house
Different phases targeted different market sectors. At the height of development, the Sales team were operating across five outlets, offering a wide range of products. The phases and overall design of Chapelford needed to support the different market sectors and this was to be aligned with the progress of the overall infrastructure of the site. Chapelford’s key location meant that the market demand was driven not only by the local market, but also the motorway network and access to important employment centres such as Manchester and Liverpool. This has been critical to the overall profile of the Chapelford development.
Working with the Construction team throughout the whole process, we made sure that a mix of properties were available at each phase of release. It was also key to ensure that when clients moved in to their new home, the surrounding environment was safe and that any continuing construction work had minimal impact on them.
All critical decisions were made in a timely manner so the delivery of the client’s new property remained on programme. They were able to visit the site and see the Construction team working on their house, giving them confidence in their investment.
The most exciting and rewarding thing for me is completion day; to see the excitement on customers’ faces, especially after the long journey of them selling or part exchanging their own property.
Helping people make such a huge decision, towards the biggest purchase they’ll make, is a great feeling.
Senior Sales Adviser
A bespoke sales and marketing centre was built for the earlier phases of Chapelford. The Construction team also delivered show arenas for each outlet and provided a range of Sales Centres to ensure the Sales department had the very best opportunity to achieve budget targets. Weekly Construction and Sales team meetings were held to ensure the very best service was given to our customers.
We're investing in modern methods of construction, which will help increase production in the industry.
The Marketing team is a brilliant team to work in. It is edgy and dynamic; we're always constantly coming up with new ideas, and new ways to promote our brand.
Our Customer Service team have helped set up regular meetings with residents and councillors as a forum for debate and discussion. They also helped to establish a Chapelford Residents Association, which created a Facebook page for residents. We have helped the Chapelford community in many ways, from funding community BBQs to creating ‘Our Wood’; a community woodland area which involved the local schools. There is a dedicated customer service line for clients to call if they have any issues post-occupation. If there are any problems, a Sales Advisor will visit the property within 24 hours and the Site Manager will take on board any actions within seven days.
Our completions are now running at the highest level for over seven years - we're approaching 45,000 completed homes in the last three years.
I think the Chapelford Village project is special because it is a community, not just a development. It’s extremely large, and there are so many varieties of our product on here.
Customer Services Operations Manager
Each customer has been presented with a copy of a book produced by the Burtonwood Heritage Association showing a pictorial history of the former RAF Burtonwood Airbase.
Once the customers move in they get a piece of history by being presented with a book showing the history of the area, and giving them a sense of what the airbase once was.