We came together with construction company Halsall, South Somerset District Council, Ilminster Town Council and members of the community to celebrate the completion of 85 new affordable homes in Ilminster.
One of the roads has been named Whaites Drive in tribute to local Councillor and former Town Mayor Paul Whaites, who sadly passed away in 2013. Paul was well known for his dedication to Ilminster and was a member of Ilminster Lions Club.
He had a vision to provide more affordable housing for younger people in the area and the event saw the unveiling of a communal bench in Councillor Whaites’ memory with the help of four generations of his family.
Glenys Whaites, Councillor Paul Whaites’ wife, said: “It was one of Paul’s visions as a councillor to ensure local young people were able to stay in the Ilminster community with the provision of new affordable homes for them. He always said that our young families should have the opportunity to remain living in Ilminster and not have to move away. It was really moving to see the homes being occupied by so many local people.
“To see his name, Councillor Paul Whaites, on the memorial bench is very emotional but also a proud moment for me and the family.”
The scheme, developed with award winning construction company Halsall, is one of the biggest housing developments in the town for several years, and we have invested nearly £14.5m into the 40 rented homes, 25 homes for shared ownership and 20 homes which are rent to buy.
Across Somerset over the next five years, we have plans to provide around 1,750 homes, investing around £315m into the county’s economy. Last year we delivered 59 new affordable homes in Somerset - 32 for social rent, nine for affordable rent and 18 for shared ownership.
Russell Baldwinson, our Executive Director of Development, said: “The homes here at Winterhay Lane provide a fantastic opportunity for local people to access great affordable homes and get a foot on the property ladder.
“There is a genuine choice of property – people can part rent, part buy their new home through the shared ownership scheme; for those that want to own a home in Ilminster but cannot afford it right now there is the option of rent to buy and there are affordable rented homes too.
“These affordable homes will help address the housing shortage in the area allowing more local people to find a good quality home close to their friends, family and workplace.
“Former Councillor Paul Whaites was passionate about the delivery of affordable homes in Ilminster. He sadly passed away a few years ago and the memorial bench on the development recognises all the good that Paul did for the town.”
The rent to buy homes which are available at this development are delivered through a government scheme set up to help people own their first home, even if they cannot afford the initial deposit.
The new properties are made available for first-time buyers to rent at 80% of market rental value for up to five years before the occupier gets first refusal to buy it.
While paying 20% less in rent, the resident has the opportunity to build up a deposit to buy the property, or another one, after the initial rent period has elapsed. But there is no obligation to buy the property if the resident decides not to.
National housing and regeneration agency, Homes England, has part funded the Ilminster project with a £2.8million grant as part of its aim to support the growth of local communities.
The development site used to belong to Powrmatic, an industrial heating company based in the town.
We acquired the site in 2017 and it came with planning permission for 72 homes and two blocks of office space, these plans were subsequently amended to provide more affordable homes.
Councillor Val Keitch, of South Somerset District Council, said: “I was extremely impressed with the quality and layout of LiveWest’s latest development here in Ilminster.
“I have no doubt that these houses are much anticipated and will provide families, couples and individuals in Ilminster a great opportunity to access the housing market if they want to.”
Andy Corp, Managing Director for Halsall, said: “We are proud to work with LiveWest to deliver high-quality affordable housing in this area, particularly on a brownfield site, and to aid them in tackling the housing shortage.
“We are committed to developing strong relationships with our customers and these homes illustrate this as well as our expertise in delivering residential projects across the South West of England.”
Ian Hansford, a local firefighter in the town, moved into a rent to buy home in July and has never looked back.
The father-of-two said: “I have always lived in Ilminster and it was a change in my circumstances which brought this opportunity about.
“I had a breakdown in my relationship, and this fell perfectly for me and I feel incredibly lucky to have come across it at the right time.
“The feel of community is really good here, there are a lot of children out playing and laughing which is always nice to hear.
“The whole feel is really nice, and the build quality of the homes is wonderful so I couldn’t be happier.
“In my opinion it has enhanced LiveWest’s reputation within Ilminster massively and it has made a huge difference to people’s lives.
“My two children love it and it has been a real success for us.”
Malcolm Gage, who works in a factory near the development, is delighted to get a new two-bedroom home after he was homeless and then lived in a hotel for nine months.
He is relieved to be in his new home after seeing the development being built.
He said: “I came from a horrendous situation where I couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel but eventually everything turned out alright. I’ve got this home now and it’s really lovely so I’m happy to be here.
“I think the development is wonderful, to be quite honest, for people like me.
“I haven’t had any grumbles with LiveWest, whenever I ring them up, they’ve solved the problems that I have. I will always remember the day they rang me and told me I had the house, it was absolutely fantastic.”
“I can remember it being a factory before and they smashed it up and built it in 18 months. I fell in love with the houses while they were being built so it’s absolutely great to be living here.”
A local couple from Ilminster were delighted to have the opportunity to stay in the town they grew up in when we built 85 new affordable homes.
Sophie 21, and Dane 20 were quick to put their name down for a new home in Winterhay Lane, and everything fell into place when a shared ownership property came up.
Sophie who is a local accountant said: “We have always dreamed of owning our own home, and after viewing other houses in the local area it was clear that a scheme where we could buy 50% of our home would be perfect for us. It’s a great option for people our age who wouldn’t be able to get a mortgage otherwise.”
Shared ownership enables people whose budget doesn’t stretch to buying outright to purchase a share they can afford, paying rent on the balance.
Sophie added “We had to fit a certain local eligibility criteria to get one of the homes, but we have lived in the area all our lives so were hopeful we would be able to get one. We fell in love with as soon as we saw it. With two bedrooms, a garden and being within walking distance to our family and the town centre it was the perfect property.”
Because a mortgage is only needed for the share they buy, deposits are much lower than when buying on the open market. The young couple eventually want to buy a 100% share of the property.