Sinclair Meadows: working together to set a new standard for affordable housing

Four Housing is a not-for-profit provider of social housing in the North East of England. In September 2012, in collaboration with the Homes and Communities Agency , South Tyneside Council, Groundwork South Tyneside and Newcastle and Galliford Try Partnerships North, it welcomed residents to Sinclair Meadows, the UK’s first carbon negative social housing estate.

Since then, the development has gone on to win numerous regional and national awards, including Best Affordable Housing Scheme at the Housing Excellence Awards.

Dawn Keightley, Group Director of Operations at Four Housing, discusses how the housing provider worked with a number of partners to set a new standard for affordable housing:

“The vision for Sinclair Meadows was, from the outset, to create a social housing development that would be the first to achieve carbon negativity. The development was purpose designed and built to surpass the Government’s definition of zero carbon and to exceed the minimum requirement for Level 6 of the Code for Sustainable Homes. To achieve this, however, all partners were acutely aware of the need to balance renewable technologies with a design approach that would ensure the homes were user friendly.

“Through partnership working, we were able to not only fulfil our goal of creating the UK’s first carbon negative social housing development, we were also able to contribute to South Tyneside Council’s pledge to cut carbon emissions by 20 per cent by 2020.

“Previously a brownfield site, Sinclair Meadows sits on the perimeter of planned estate regeneration, including 400 new homes, community facilities and shops. The development therefore acts as a gateway to the regeneration project and sets the quality standard.

“As well as working in partnership with service providers and the local council, the success of Sinclair Meadows depends heavily on effective partnership working with the tenants. The aspiration is that the community will evolve and take on a self-management approach.

“As part of Four Housing’s community development programme, tenants have taken on stair cleaning in apartment blocks and litter picks in the communal gardens. One tenant is now a biomass boiler house caretaker, responsible for monitoring the pellets and arranging deliveries, cleaning the ashes from the hopper and advising if the onsite alarm goes off. This proactive, partnership-working approach with tenants will result in service charge reductions.

“In creating the first social housing development to achieve carbon negativity, it is our responsibility to understand how the micro-renewable technologies used at Sinclair Meadows perform. As such, we have commissioned data-monitoring using Technology Strategy Board funding; this will provide information and establish a benchmark which can be used by wider industry in years to come.

“The buildings are remotely monitored to evaluate their technical performance, how residents use the technologies, how improvements can be made and what support is required to enable tenants to reduce energy usage and fuel costs.

“One of our core objectives as a business is to support and encourage effective partnerships. In fostering this way of thinking, we have been able to work together with a number of different organisations not only to help them achieve their goals, but also to create Sinclair Meadows and set a new standard for affordable housing.