Meet the Team Guy Flintoft – Planning & Design Director
Guy Flintoft holds an interesting and varied role at Retirement Villages, as part of our Development Team. Find out a bit more about what he does and how he is helping to find opportunities in planning, build sustainable communities for future generations and grow the retirement living sector.
How did you come to work for RVG?
I started my career as a planner working in Kent. As a young town planner, the retirement sector hadn’t caught my attention just yet as it was still in its infancy. However, in 2004 I moved into a consultancy role. My first client was a pioneer in the retirement sector and I was involved in the planning and design of a number of retirement communities, including our own Charters Village, Mayford Grange and Blagdon Village. I also worked on a development project at Elmbridge Village to update and expand the village facilities, designed to accommodate the growing community.
I joined RVG in 2018 as Planning & Design Director and am involved with both new developments and established communities when they undergo refurbishment or improvement works.
Tell us about some of the opportunities in planning at the moment?
The planning system is universally labelled as a blocker or the difficult party when it comes to property development, and it’s true there can be a lot of red tape. Local authorities are expected to understand the needs of older people. This covers the full range from adaptable homes to sheltered housing and retirement communities through to care homes. They should adopt policies and make planning decisions so as to ensure those needs are met.
It’s a learning process, as the retirement sector is still in its infancy in the UK, particularly when it comes to blending self-contained homes with care and support. There is a lot of misunderstanding about integrated retirement communities and what they can bring to an area, in terms of services and jobs, as well as homes themselves. Part of my role is to untangle the requirements a local authority may have and aid the process through careful planning and design to meet these different requirements.
How does the availability of land play into the process?
Land is a scarce commodity, so bidding can often become competitive. We can find ourselves in competition with traditional developers, who aren’t specialists in the sector. This is where an understanding of the planning process and local authority requirements can prove extremely helpful. If we can work through these requirements we may find our projects provide a greater social and economic benefit to the community in the long term, so we can win out with this knowledge in the face of a standard developer.
Take Botanical Place in West Byfleet as an example; the site, in the heart of the town, was a brownfield opportunity, and there had been some failed planning attempts previously. Through an understanding of the local authority requirements, we were able to plan a much-needed public library and pedestrianised public square, which will provide value to the existing community, whilst upgrading the amenities that already exist in West Byfleet. Working to enhance an existing town or community is very rewarding.
Tell us about sustainability and how you see this evolving for planners and local authorities?
There has been much talk about building for the future and sustainable development. The RVG strategy is at the forefront where this is concerned. Our strategy drives where we look for land opportunities and the quality of product we go on to build.
None of our developments are standard, we will look to enhance what is already there and use our special characteristics as a retirement sector developer to unlock development sites others may not be able to. Our whole of life net zero carbon approach will help to ensure we stay ahead of the competition and provide developments whose impact is at a minimum neutral, if not positive, on the environment around them.
I expect there will be an increasing number of policies around sustainability and how buildings come together in the future, we’re already starting to see it. A great example is circularity – how we create buildings that can be repurposed or can be disassembled so that their constituent parts can be reused in future buildings. This approach goes beyond simply recycling the materials involved.
What do you love most about the role?
I’m very glad I made the switch to work client-side. It gives you the opportunity to get closer to the projects and become more invested in their future. As the retirement sector continues to grow in the UK, I believe it’s something to be invested in for the long term. I expect we’ll begin to see integrated retirement communities become the natural choice when moving in your later years, as education in their value continues to increase.
As an operator and developer, and with AXA’s funding, RVG is perfectly placed to see any investments through and ensure its role in improving the quality of life of those who choose an integrated retirement community as their home.
What tips would you share with someone thinking about a career in planning?
There’s a serious lack of talent coming into the industry and that in itself is a big opportunity for anyone considering a career. A degree in town planning can take you in many directions, you’ll get to meet a huge variety of people from different backgrounds and communities. There’s an opportunity to put a stamp on an area or even influence policy for building into the future.
I’ve worked across the country from Cornwall to Newcastle – some of my colleagues are constantly amazed as I reel off my experience working in different areas of the country. It’s a great way really learn about a local area and build something intrinsic to its continued economic and social success.
My main tip for an enjoyable career in planning is that it’s more rewarding to be making things happen than stopping them from happening, so look for a role that gives you that opportunity.
Find out more about future developments at Retirement Villages and some of the projects Guy is working on in our future developments article.Future Developments