Our work on tied accommodation in the early 1970’s culminated in the signing of the Warnford Charter in 1973. This established a new framework for the rights of our employees and their families. The single most important finding from all of the interviews undertaken to inform the content of the Charter was that 15 of the 16 families interviewed said that they would prefer to continue living in Warnford in retirement. Remaining in the village was more important to them than any particular cottage.
This was the second structural issue that I felt we had to address; how to enable retired employees to continue living in Warnford with a maximum degree of security. In the normal course of events at that time, the Local Authority’s provision of retired accommodation would see families leaving the village where they had lived and worked all their lives and moving to some neighbouring town where accommodation had been built for the specific purpose of housing retirees.
Through the good offices of the Arthur Rank Centre at Stoneleigh Park in Warwickshire, where much thought had been given to how best to cope with the tied accommodation system nationally, we established contact with the Hanover Housing Association (since 2018 the Anchor Hanover Group). At that point in time Hanover had some 7,000 units of accommodation nationwide but none in a rural area. As good luck would have it, Hanover’s Southern Regional Office Manager, Keith Best, was a great enthusiast for the idea of creating a cottage development in Warnford as the first Hanover project in a rural area. Keith’s energy and commitment were pivotal in addressing the concerns of his senior colleagues; “there are no street lights” and “we shall have to have a free issue of wellies” are two of the comments I recall!
Thankfully, Keith’s enthusiasm carried the day and a plan was produced to build a terrace of six cottages at a cost of £160,000. I agreed to provide a site free of charge and sold two cottages to contribute £90,000 of the build cost. The Tudor Trust agreed to provide the balance of £70,000.
Planning consent was duly obtained and on 6th of October 1981 Hanover Cottages, Lippen Lane, Warnford was opened by Lord Porchester. Six of our retired employees moved into their brand-new homes which had been purpose-built to mobility standards. One interesting feature of the planning consent was that it was granted for retired rural workers not simply for retired farm workers. Tenants were charged a subsidised rent by Hanover and given total security for life. One other feature of the development was that no resident caretaker was required because the tenants were all cared for by their relations who lived in the village.
Having originally been granted nomination rights for the cottages as they became vacant, I was delighted to be able to pass these rights into the safe hands of the Warnford Parish Meeting in 2016.
This model was subsequently adopted by a number of other landowners in the south of England and Warnford’s Hanover Cottages even featured on the front cover of a report for the National Federation of Housing Associations of a working party chaired by the Duke of Edinburgh entitled “Rural Housing: hidden problems and possible solutions”.