Abbeyfield South Downs

The Holdenhurst Scheme

In 2018, Abbeyfield South Downs started work on an extra care scheme in Heathfield, East Sussex. The scheme planned to develop 48 homes in an area of outstanding natural beauty, where there was a lack of available land and affordable homes, particularly for older people.

Planning consent was granted on the condition that 35% of the homes fell under a nominations agreement with East Sussex County Council (ESCC) at Affordable Rent. Abbeyfield South Downs wanted to aim for all homes to be let at Affordable Rents, but they weren’t sure this would be possible. The original plan was that the scheme would be mixed tenure, with 23 homes sold to fund the scheme.

What barriers did they face?

Securing funding was a key challenge. Abbeyfield South Downs provided the initial capital and secured a loan from a consortium led by Charity Bank, with new grant funding awarded by Homes England. The selling of leasehold homes ensured that homes for rent would be affordable.

Several major setbacks occurred during the construction phase. During the pandemic, the project’s main contractor went into liquidation with the scheme 97% completed, substantially increasing costs. ESCC also encountered financial difficulty and was unable to go ahead with the planned nominations agreement with Abbeyfield South Downs.

How did they overcome the challenges?

As construction progressed, Abbeyfield South Downs considered how they could reduce the number of leasehold sales. They were supported by The Abbeyfield Society, who were able to assist with Recycled Capital Grant Funding (RCGF), although some leasehold sales were still necessary.

Abbeyfield South Downs also reached out to Homes England, who helped source £2m further RCGF. This meant they were finally in a position to let all 48 homes as affordable rentals. The scheme opened in April 2022 as a ‘care enabled’ model and was 100% occupied within 12 months.

The Holdenhurst Scheme is now a vibrant community where residents are positive about the scheme and the support offered.

Partnering to deliver affordable homes

The funding package was a big, innovative strength in this project. The initial RCGF support helped to strengthen the financial appraisal, but this was not enough, especially post-Covid 19 as costs rose significantly. The additional RCGF from a G15 provider and strong relationships were vital to the success of the development.

Who to speak to

Ewan Fulford, Policy Assistant