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February 2021

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Published on 18 February 2021

Building on a strong foundation - a small development of affordable homes opens its doors to new owners from the local community.

Fiona Blake and dog Lola

The past year has been significant for all of us, and most of us have experienced change in our lives that we’d never imagined.

However, one Teignbridge resident, the past year has marked the start of an exciting new chapter, as she steps onto the first rung of the housing ladder for the first time in her life.

Fiona Blake currently lives with her brother and sister-in-law and two teenage children in the Teignbridge village of Denbury.  Having changed careers three years ago to become a school teacher, Fiona says she hadn’t really contemplated buying her own house, as she had never been in a position to buy one before.

So when the opportunity came up to apply for a shared ownership property in the village, Fiona jumped at it.

“It was an incredible opportunity,” said Fiona. “I never imagined I’d be able to afford somewhere, so when this opportunity came up I thought, ‘what do I have to lose?’

“I applied, and a week or so before Christmas the estate agent phoned me and said I’d been successful.  It was an incredible feeling.”

The homes are the result of a scheme to provide affordable housing in the Teignbridge District, and is the result of a collaboration between Willow Tree Housing Partnership, Teignbridge District Council, Homes England, Denbury Parish Council and local construction firm Classic Builders.    The scheme is designed for people living in traditionally low-income areas to access homes that would otherwise be beyond their means, and these homes have enabled locals to remain within their villages and communities.

Donna Johnson, Chief Executive of the Willow Tree Housing Partnership said:  “Our new scheme at Denbury was a long time in the planning and completion, involving many partners working together to achieve common goals. I am delighted that we have been able to provide new affordable housing for people to remain in the area where they live. I hope that this development, built to high standards with quality materials, will be enjoyed by people for generations to come.”

For Fiona, the new house means she can stay in the village, where she has put down roots and become a part of the local community.  She takes part in the weekly crossword club (currently online!) and is hoping to support the annual GlasDenbury festival if it takes place this year, after last year’s cancellation due to Covid.

“Denbury is an idyllic village with a fantastic community and a perfect village pub,” said Fiona.  “The house is a short walk from where I live now, so I go there and look at it every day.  My friends in the village are so chuffed for me, and they give me regular updates – a new shed going in, a washing line being put up, and a combination lockable box for my front door key.”

Fiona’s house is one of a small development of nine homes – seven affordable rent and two shared ownership, with a self-build plot. Work to build them – carried out by local construction company Classic Homes, started in January last year, but the impact of Covid and lockdown led to delays, but these were overcome by the contractor and were back on track for completion before Christmas.

“The house is beautiful, with slate windowsills, a downstairs cloakroom and beautifully landscaped gardens and a traditional stone wall.  It’s got lots of space for me and my labradoodle Lola, and my niece can’t wait to visit me when I move in,” said Fiona.

Lewis Tolputt – Business Development Manager, Classic Builders, said:  “Everyone at Classic Builders has been incredibly proud to play a part in delivering this beautiful scheme. As a Devon-based building company we are pleased to have had the opportunity not only to build local homes for local residents but also to share this privilege with our trusted and vetted local supply chain partners.”

The scheme was funded by grants from Homes England together with £100,000 from Teignbridge District Council to support the viability of the scheme, which included £50,000 from the Council’s Community Led Housing Fund.

Councillor Martin Wrigley, the Council’s Executive Lead for Housing, said: “Building affordable homes for local residents is core to what we are here to do, and seeing them completed and families moving into their new homes is really exciting.

“This mixed development of homes shows it’s possible to deliver with both quality and affordability. We are proud to see the results of our successful partnership with local Housing Association Willow Tree Housing, developers Classic Homes and Denbury Parish Council, along with support from Homes England.

“And most important of all, is the difference this will make to local people’s lives.  People for whom a home of their own was just a pipe dream, now have a chance to make it reality – and to stay in their local community.”

For Fiona, just a few weeks remain before her solicitors complete the paperwork, and she can move into her dream house.  

And she’ll be able to gaze out of her window at the eponymous Hill Fort– the iron-age fortress after which the development was named.