What does community mean to you?

Chris Davidson

Regional Director – Yorkshire & Central

Many of us look back with nostalgia at childhoods spent playing in the street, walking to school with classmates, and knowing not just our neighbours but our neighbours’ neighbours.

In today’s world, it can be easy to think this version of community is waning. Our lives are increasingly digital, and we often overlook the importance of real-world, local connections.

But this can have wider impact on quality of life – research from Mind, the Samaritans, and the Mental Health Foundation all finds that a sense of community is critical for mental health. A feeling of belonging is fundamental to a productive and healthy society.

At Harworth, fostering connections is at the heart of what we do – we don’t just build homes and places to work, we create neighbourhoods, transforming land in need of investment into vibrant new places where families can grow, innovation can thrive, and people can feel a part of something bigger.

Many of our sites were once coalfields and places of industry – where bustling communities existed, centred around a shared place of work and social amenities. In restoring these places and making them what they are today, we’re also building on what was and using this former community spirit as inspiration.

Our society and our economy are inseparable. Good social communities rely on strong economic communities – to help support quality jobs, access to education and skills. By making all of these things available on people’s doorsteps, we can boost quality of life – studies have shown that longer commutes affect both physical and mental health, especially in areas where there is less public transport coverage.

The things that make communities thrive – working alongside neighbours, children attending local schools, having safe and accessible play spaces to encourage kids to get outside and play, and ‘third places’, where people can meet and socialise – are the bedrocks of our developments. This is what quality social infrastructure should support.

We are specialists in complex regeneration, which gives a long-term perspective on developing areas for people to live, work and socialise. Many of the sites we work in require extensive and years long masterplanning and land remediation before construction can even begin. This means we need to consider not just what is important in the coming years, but also what communities will need for decades to come.

Our sites also support a range of housing models – from market sale homes to affordable housing and build to rent homes – enabling a wide range of people to live on our sites, which contributes to diverse and mixed neighbourhoods.

The process doesn’t stop once land is prepared, plots have been sold to housebuilders, or even once people start living and working on site. We remain involved, creating country parks, places to eat, drink and shop, community centres, and employment spaces. We look beyond housing, to the elements that make life what it should be.

Across our Yorkshire and Central region we have delivered thousands of homes, have plans for new schools, and made significant investments into community initiatives – from local football pitches to bike parks and community gardens. Our flagship development at Waverley, on the site of the former Orgreave Colliery, will see construction of a new high street completed this year, and work has recently begun on the 20-acre park that will run through its centre.

At sites like Waverley we are building on local industrial heritage. Many of the people who work at Harworth are local to our developments and have a close appreciation of how important economic communities are. The transition we’ve supported on these sites is an incredibly powerful story and one that we are all proud of.

This is true of many of our sites – the colliery at Rossington (now Pheasant Hill Park) was once so successful that a large number of houses were needed to be built near the pit in what became ‘New Rossington’ and formed a bustling mining community. Harworth received planning consent on the site in 2013, and after extensive remediation the site is once again a vibrant and burgeoning community. With over 645 homes sold and the nearby 6m sq ft of employment space at iPort providing jobs for local people, Pheasant Hill Park is renewed in its role as a place for people to work, live, and connect with each other.

When a development is created with clear intentions – well-designed, supported by infrastructure and properly connected – we are all better for it. It’s not about reinventing community, but taking what already works well and building on it. At Harworth, this is a driving force for what we do, and creating flourishing and resilient places is the ultimate end goal.