Guild head on L&G’s first later-living steps

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This will be no ordinary retirement scheme. As well as the homes, Guild Living will build a nursery, a fitness centre, shops, a café and 2.5 acres of outdoor community space.

The planned development (pictured) is one of three that Guild Living is planning permission for, the others being in Epsom and Walton-on-Thames.

Guild Living co-founder and director Eugene Marchese tells Property Week how the business intends to get a new generation of later-living projects off the ground.

You moved from Australia to work with L&G in the UK. How do the markets differ?

What excited us most about the UK market was that it is in its infancy, so is basically a clean sheet of paper. We knew what not to do because of lessons learnt in Australia and New Zealand, so with the platform L&G had given us, we could get it right from the beginning here.

The UK market is also not bound to as much legacy as, say, Australia, which has significant legislation on how care operators work. This can be good, as it protects people from doing the wrong thing, but also sets the boundaries of what everyone thinks is the right thing to do. In Australia, there’s a latent industry laziness because people think meeting the legislation means they’ve got the solution. This doesn’t drive innovation.

The fact that there isn’t as much governance around this in the UK means providers can be innovative and push the boundaries.

What are Guild Living’s priorities for its schemes?

Our schemes need to be urban-centric, as the next generation of elderly are baby boomers – the most educated, wealthiest and well travelled of the past generations. So they want to stay connected to the services they’re used to.

They also need to be of a certain scale, because to build a community, people need to be able to find their tribes. Almost like a dating service, we’ll group people in the scheme based on things they have in common.

The schemes being open to the public on the ground floor is important too, so that our residents always feel like they’re part of the wider community.

The level of care is also key. People won’t leave their home of 50 years for a nice new pool. In-house care delivered in a way that’s discreet, with respect and dignity, is the model that will change everything.

How open are local councils to your schemes?

The first roadblock is explaining that we are not a traditional care home or retirement village to planners used to those [formats]. But once we’ve helped councils to understand that, we’ve had really positive feedback – because they understand that the tsunami of ageing is coming.

How confident are you about getting the go-ahead in Bath?

We’re confident the council will see this scheme in a positive light. We’ve been working with them for 14 months, had seven community consultations and have made significant adjustments after feedback on height, bulk and scale. 

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