By www.flat-living.co.uk Ltd on 02/11/2015

Thomas Homes Fair Mile development in the heart of the Oxfordshire countryside is making new use of a former Victorian hospital.

Fair Mile opened as a hospital in September 1870. Designed by leading Victorian architect Charles Henry Howell and with grounds designed by Robert Marnock, the original buildings housed up to 500 patients. The main building adjoined offices, a superintendent's house, a lodge and a number of cottages. A farm provided fresh produce for the inmates and a chapel provided for their spiritual needs.

Today, Fair Mile remains a fine example of grandiose Victorian architecture featuring crow step gables, red and blue brick detailing, stone sills and mullions and sash windows, all renovated as part of Thomas Homes new residential development in the heart of the Oxfordshire countryside. The 131 new leasehold homes housed within the Grade II listed former hospital buildings are at the heart of the larger Cholsey Meadows scheme which provides a total of 350 new homes alongside a wide range of facilities. These include:

  • Shop / cafe / restaurant.
  • Great Hall complete with stage and a chapel - both also used by the local community.
  • Day nursery offering professional pre-school care.
  • Cricket pitch and pavilion.
  • Children's play area.
  • Allotments for residents' use.
  • Offices to rent.
  • Grounds & 100 acres of open fields and marshland, as well as access to a nature reserve and more than a mile of the River Thames

The homes at Fair Mile are a mix of apartments and houses with 39 of these designated as affordable housing - a mix of rent and part ownership - comprising a mix of self-contained units and blocks of apartments. All are built to high quality and environmental standards. Conserving energy and resources was a priority during construction, with 95% of building waste recycled and eco-building techniques, including excellent sound and heat insulation for walls and roofs, each property meets exceptionally high levels of energy efficiency. As a result all homes at Fair Mile meet the EcoHomes Very Good standard. Rainwater is controlled by a sustainable urban drainage system (SUDS) and residents are encouraged to be eco-friendly themselves with apartment buildings providing designated areas for cycle storage and footpaths doubling as cycleways.

Working sympathetically to meet the requirements of Fair Mile's Grade ll listing, Thomas Homes has maintained the historic fabric of the buildings wherever possible. Ranging from one to four bedrooms, each conversion retains Victorian features such as panelling, high skirting boards and window seats. Original sash windows have been retained, updated with high-performance double-glazed units and seals (see pages 43 -45 for more on retaining original windows in listed buildings). Alongside these traditional fixtures, each home also boasts fully-fitted A-rated energy efficient kitchen appliances and bathrooms with wall-hung sanitaryware and fully concealed pipework.

Good transport connections make Cholsey Meadows an easy commute to Oxford, Reading and London via road and rail. The market towns of Wallingford and Henley-on-Thames are within easy reach as are the Chiltern Hills and the Ridgeway.

The development is due for completion in October but all apartments have already been sold, says Vikki Hellewell from Managing Agent Cleaver Property Management which has been involved in the Fair Mile development since 2011. "There is an amazing feel to the development," says Vikki, "from the wild meadows leading to the Thames river bank, the cricket pitch or the Great Hall, there is something for everyone, young or old". The development has its own Facebook page and appeals to a good mix of young professionals, families and retired people.

Jane Goodey is the property manager at Fair Mile, overseeing the day-to-day management of services, including general maintenance and security. She has been instrumental in working with the residents to ensure they are fully involved in the management of the development and have a say in how service charge monies are spent.

One of the main challenges from the property management perspective, is the fact that the Fair Mile development is part of a wider community. Residents pay into a service charge pot that pays for the management of not only the building that they live in but also towards the management of the grounds which fall under a different managing agent. This has led to considerable confusion but Cleaver Property Management has overcome this by ensuring that regular communications are issued to all residents. "We also act as an intermediary for the residents, so instead of saying 'that's not our job' we are instrumental in getting the issue raised with the correct agent and following it through until completion" Jane explains.

In the last six months, residents have been encouraged to get involved and are in the early stages of creating a Residents Association. It will take a while for this to bed in but Cleaver Property Management will support the residents throughout the transition from being a freeholder-managed to a resident managed site.

To find out more about Cleaver Property Management visit their website www.cleaverproperty.co.uk

A Place in the Country at Thomas Homes Fair Mile Development header image