Interview with Stephen Stone, CEO of Crest Nicholson, on mega regeneration schemes
Mega regeneration schemes like Arborfield Green in Berkshire are delivering thousands of new homes through the release of public land for development. These huge projects present unique challenges and opportunities. MOLA has been working with Crest Nicholson on Arborfield for over three years on the initial EIA and subsequent fieldwork. Archaeology is just one of the many considerations for the development team. We asked CEO, Stephen Stone, about what he sees as the critical success factors for archaeology and heritage on schemes like this.
1) What are the challenges with these massive multi-phase schemes and from your perspective what is the best way to incorporate archaeological work into design and construction?
In terms of larger multi-phase schemes, we find that the biggest challenge is managing unforeseen delays to construction programming, whilst ensuring a suitable amount of time is reserved for necessary archaeological investigations.
Large-scale projects like our Arborfield Green Garden Village development in Berkshire have real archaeological interest and we respect the importance of honouring the demand to explore such sites. Careful planning is required to allow time for investigation and excavation, whilst minimising delays.
Being prepared is key. At Crest Nicholson, our development teams will agree a sensible timeline for excavations, which can work around the ongoing construction timeline. Working as a team, we'll ensure that archaeological investigations are aligned to our build programmes, maximising quiet periods in the build and minimising disruption.
By working closely with existing communities, local stakeholders and relevant authorities we can consult with them throughout development, making sure we understand requirements early on.
We want archaeology and time-sensitive construction to progress together, and we've found great success with a balance between the two.
2) There are changes in legislation (the Housing Bill 2016) and Brexit coming round the corner. What difference do you think this will make to your world? (Do you know that many of the archaeologists in the UK are from other EU countries?)
Archaeology is a profession driven by geography, with archaeologists naturally moving and working across the world. It is difficult to say what impact Brexit might have on the industry until an agreement is reached.
It is of course not just archaeology that will be affected by Brexit. Multiple sectors who rely on additional labour from outside of the UK, including the construction and housebuilding sector, will undoubtedly need to adapt.
That is why as a business we are heavily investing in talent, through our apprenticeship and graduate schemes and wider training programmes, to ensure we are prepared for the future and tackle the current skills gap in the industry.
3) Archaeology and the historic environment can help to shape the identity of new communities. How does Crest Nicholson use historic references in schemes?
Our Arborfield Green development has a rich military history, being the former site of the local Arborfield Garrison for more than a century.
From the beginning of planning on site, we decided to embrace the area’s military connection, ensuring its rich history is honoured and preserved in the new scheme.
The former Garrison was once home to a former horse hospital, where horses were rehabilitated during the First World War. This building clearly has an important place in the heart and story of the local community. Crest Nicholson is therefore committed to redeveloping this heritage asset into a new community facility, overlooking the village green.
This connection with horses will also flow through to our public art strategy across the wider development, where we are looking to celebrate the role of the horse throughout history to current day.
There will also be cues within the new development to the formal grid structure of the military streets, which formed part of the REME (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) training college.
Where possible, we try and reflect the history and character of each region in all our developments. Every community should have a story and its surrounding history is a key part of that.
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