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Don’t just move house, move community

Never mind the number of bedrooms and marble counter tops - community is the hot new selling point for new homes. But what exactly should we be looking for?

Spring is the time for fresh starts, and it seems people are on the move post-pandemic. Lockdown has left people longing for space and for a different kind of life and, with remote working set to continue, frazzled city-dwellers are free to find their ideal homes and gardens in the countryside. Turns out that many are searching for something else too – that elusive sense of community spirit. 

If we can find any positives from the last year, a renewed sense of community has to be a big one. When our neighbours found out last March that we had Covid, far from daubing our front door with a red cross and hissing at our pale faces through the window, they rallied round and left jigsaws on our doorstep, delivered us treats from local bakeries, fetched us Paracetamol and checked on us regularly to make sure we were okay. And we’re not just talking next-door neighbours – this was the whole street and beyond.

But how do you ‘shop’ specifically for community that you can quickly become a part of? You can hardly tell your estate agent that you’re looking for a three-bed terrace, with a garden, and an instantly supportive community that will also help with council issues, throw great parties and drop off cakes when required. Or can you? Turns out a fast track to joining an active community is to look at new builds, where savvy developers have become savvy to the fact that people want strong and vibrant communities from the get-go. So what makes up the modern ideal of ‘community’ – and where can we find it, please?

Head for the New Schools

It’s a given that housebuyers with kids will have a beady eye on the best local schools and the inevitable waiting lists to get into them. Bypassing the problem altogether sounds dreamy and so now developers like Urban&Civic include schools in every large-scale development – recent examples include Alconbury Weald, Wintringham St Neots and a new one planned for Waterbeach. A further three primary schools are planned for Alconbury (one already open) plus a nursery and a secondary school (2023). This is key to attracting families who can get to know each other through the schools, but also to establishing connections in the wider demographic as the schools double as community centres for activities like yoga, keep fit and art classes.

Go Eco

Eco-friendly, sleek modern homes are considered standard at most of the top-notch new developments in and around Cambridgeshire, as are the integrated green spaces and great play parks, which makes them already a compelling choice. Great communal outside areas allow you to mix, mingle and meet (we remember that!). More and more folks are keen to live in enviro-friendly, efficient and sustainable homes surrounded by nature, and by choosing developments where green is the ‘new black’ you are also choosing a neighbourhood full of lovely, like-minded planet lovers – a great starting point for any community.  

Enjoy the Space

One of the criticisms of new builds is often the teeny tiny gardens and close proximity to the curtain-twitching neighbours (sorry, I must stop doing that). While some developments are still wedded to the ‘bung on as many as you can’ principle, other new build environments enjoy more largesse, even grandeur, with cricket pitches, large new playgrounds and even, at Alconbury, a 155-acre landscaped country park in planning. Developers with real business smarts are also throwing in cafés, gyms and community shops to create a ready-made village feel.

Organised Fun

If you needed any more proof that community is paramount to most new home buyers, look no further than Urban&Civic’s two full-time community development roles – a rare and ground-breaking move that sees the development leads liaising with tradesmen, resolving neighbourhood issues, and organising events. Yes seriously, the officers are there to fight for your rights to park and to party!

Pre-Covid there were outdoor cinema events, cricket matches, summer picnics with games and music, heritage-themed events and nature trails, all set to restart as soon as they are allowed. Events are carefully curated to be inclusive, so whether you have kids or not, are young professionals or retired, there’s something for everyone. As neighbours mix and socialise, bonds are formed across the development, and very soon the residents are also organising their own events, classes, and activities. Not a joiner inner? Fear not, community jollity is not compulsory!

So when you finally take the plunge and move from a big city, it may well be worth putting community – and new builds – higher up your list, even above double sinks (although they should still be quite high – trust me!). Moving to one of these new developments may offer that instant community vibe that you long for.Read independent advice from the Homeowners Alliance on what to look for when buying a new home. Read more about the eco-friendly, sustainable developments and their communities at Alconbury Weald, Wintringham St Neots and Waterbeach, by master developers Urban&Civic.

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