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Green news – developer rescues eco-scheme and Bristol the UK's greenest city

Developer Southern Grove has rescued out of receivership a site that was supposed to host the world’s most sustainable residential tower.

The Beacon, a planned eco-development in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, first made headlines when it was announced in 2015 with a set completion date of 2018. 

It was later remodelled and renamed ‘Boxmoor Forest’ by developer Luminere Developments to appease planners. Despite this, construction never started, and, in the end, the debt held against the project was called in by its bridging lender.


The site was advertised by the receiver at £8.5million, with Southern Grove exchanging contracts on the land last week.

Southern Grove – which specialises in delivering affordable housing schemes in areas of high-demand – will now partner with a housing association to provide 170 homes in a fully affordable scheme. 

The site is located in Whiteleaf Road, which is only a 10-minute walk from Hemel Hempstead train station. From there, commuters can get to London Euston in about 30 minutes. 

The development will be designed by ECE Architecture, with a planning application set to be submitted to Dacorum Borough Council this summer. PwC have been acting for the receivers and the sale of the site was handled by Allsop.

“Hemel Hempstead desperately needs more affordable homes and we’re proud to be tabling the latest in a series of projects for fully affordable schemes right where people need them,” Tom Slingsby, chief executive of Southern Grove, said.

“It’s great news for the people of Hemel Hempstead that development of this site will now make progress. All the units will be available at affordable rent or for purchase with shared ownership, and we remain determined to raise the quality of the finish that residents can expect from homes available through these initiatives.”

While the new scheme will not include the zero-carbon elements from the previous proposal, it will comply with current building regulations surrounding sustainability and carbon emissions.

Previously we covered Southern Grove’s plans for the tallest tower in Ealing, and asked whether fully affordable towers are really the future for London, and we have also covered the company’s student developments through its purpose-built student accommodation arm, Future Generation.

This has included a £25 million scheme in university hotspot Cambridge, a £25 million project in Colchester, Essex (its first live PBSA scheme), and planning permission being granted for an £80 million scheme in Hackney Wick.

Southern Grove, founded in 2013 by current group chairman Andrew Southern, has a number of hotel, residential and student developments across the UK, including Gateway Barnet Brent Cross, St James Bermondsey and The Vantage Nottingham. 

Bristol crowned as the most eco-friendly city in the UK

The latest research from Good Move has revealed that Bristol is the greenest city in the UK, while Birmingham is the least eco-friendly.

The study ranked UK cities based on a variety of sustainability factors, before taking an average score to produce a leaderboard. Bristol finished in top spot in three of the five ranking categories, beating all other cities with regards to carbon emissions, recycling rates and gas consumption.

The city’s residents recycle or compost nearly half (47%) of their household waste, 6% more than anywhere else, while Bristol is the only city in the UK to consume less than 3,000 kw/h of gas per year.

Such habits meant Bristol was crowned as the UK’s first-ever European Green Capital in 2015. The city is well-known for its green, alternative, bohemian character, and calls itself the UK’s first cycling city, due to its selection of national cycle routes and links to Sustrans, the charity behind the development of the National Cycle Network.  

Its reputation as a green hotbed was further backed up by Greta Thunberg’s recent visit to the city, where thousands of schoolchildren joined her on a climate strike.

Edinburgh grabbed second spot in the study, mostly thanks to the large areas of publicly available green space. The Scottish capital, with 49 hectares for people to freely enjoy, has more than any other UK city. Interestingly, the second biggest Scottish city – Glasgow – came second in this category, with 32 hectares.

Birmingham, by contrast, was named as the least eco-friendly city, largely because of its poor recycling and emission statistics. Brummies only recycle 22% of their waste – the lowest in the UK – with only London having worse carbon emission and gas consumption figures.

The study revealed the five most environmentally-friendly UK cities to be: Bristol, Edinburgh, Manchester, Sheffield and Bradford, while the five least eco-friendly cities were: Birmingham, London, Leeds, Glasgow and Liverpool.

The capital fared poorly in most categories, with London producing more carbon emissions (29,709 tonnes) and consuming more gas (61,546 kw/h) than the other nine major cities combined.

“The world is finally waking up to the dangers of climate change and the impact that our lifestyles are having on the planet,” Ross Counsell, director at Good Move, said.

“Our research has highlighted which UK cities are particularly guilty of being unsustainable, while also praising those who are taking steps to address the issues. However, progress can only be made if the country works together as a whole, making informed changes on a national scale.”

To find out more detail about the sustainability of each major UK city, you can visit: https://goodmove.co.uk/britains-green-cities/.


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