FCHO is delivering 88 homes in West Vale, Oldham. Credit: via planning documents

First Choice Homes Oldham secures £95m cash boost 

Santander UK has lent the housing association the money to fund its development pipeline and retrofit existing stock. 

The £95m facility will allow First Choice Homes Oldham to improve the energy efficiency of its 11,300-strong portfolio of homes, as well as supporting the delivery of 700 new properties by 2026. 

A mix of houses and apartments for affordable rent and shared ownership are planned and FCHO is aiming for an EPC rating of B for the new-build properties. 

One of the housing association’s pipeline schemes is at the former West Vale estate in Oldham where two tower blocks have been demolished to make way for 88 modern properties. 

That project was going to be delivered by Crossfield Living but the hunt is on for a new contractor after the company went bust. 

“I am delighted to continue our long-standing relationship with Santander UK. Securing this funding allows us to build 700 much-needed homes across the area with a total investment of £110m,” said Andy Ewart, director of finance at First Choice Homes Oldham. 

“The funding package also supports the first phase of our sustainability strategy, improving the energy efficiency of our existing homes.”

Robert Simmons, relationship director at Santander UK, added: “Having supported First Choice Homes Oldham since it was first established in 2011, we are proud to provide it with this latest £95m funding package.  

“This will not only enable it to provide hundreds of affordable new homes – both rental accommodation and shared ownership – to the Oldham community but also supports its work to enhance the energy efficiency of its existing properties.” 

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In fact First Choice operates in other local authority areas so not all of this money will be spent in Oldham. The West Vale project is typical of the disjointed way Oldham Council operates – drop the existing accommodation and then have no one else prepared to risk their money building afresh. All over the greater town centre area terraced houses were demolished and streets cleared from the 1980’s onwards, leaving abandoned sites in depressing areas that no one was interested in that became dumping grounds, only now are one or two being re- developed. Another unbelievable act of folly is that the council wanted to drop the tower blocks at West Vale and build houses because tower blocks are now “out” and antisocial, but in the town centre they want to build? – tower blocks for over 2000 apartments!! No wonder developers are splitting their sides with laughter!

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