Q&A: John Fairclough, chairman of Charters Village’s Residents Association

Diary posted

9th November 2016

Many residents play a vital role in helping our retirement villages run smoothly and, by championing the interests of others who live in their communities, inspire people to lead happy and fulfilling lives in later life.

John Fairclough Chairman Each of our villages has a Residents Association, which works closely with managers and senior directors within the Retirement Villages Group to ensure open lines of communication between all parties and address issues of interest of concern to residents.

John Fairclough is chairman of the Residents Association at Charters Village in East Grinstead, West Sussex. John moved to Charters in 2014 when the village first opened. We caught up with him to find out more about his role and why it is important.

How long have you been chairman?
I took over as chairman of the Residents Association in June 2015 following the sudden, untimely death of Tony Coombes, who had steered the association since its formation in early 2014. I was a member of the committee and Vice Chairman at the time.

What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
There are no set day-to-day responsibilities except perhaps to chair the monthly meetings of the Residents Association and the committee and assist with some social events.

My main role is to work on behalf of the residents and act on issues that interest or concern them. For example these include the relocation of our bar, sourcing suitable stackable seating to accommodate our increasing numbers at open events, rationalising traffic management on site etc.

How closely do you work with the Village Manager and Retirement Villages’ senior management?
The committee has a very close working relationship with the Village Manager, who attends our monthly meetings and learns at first hand of the issues that residents as an entity require addressing.

We have no secrets from the VM; he is as much an integral part of our lives as we are of his. He also attends a coffee morning after each meeting of the association to answer questions from residents.

As far as contact with senior Retirement Villages management is concerned, we find them generally very approachable and our dialogue with them is excellent. In particular, we are in regular contact with the RV Group Chairman, the MD of RV Developments and the MD of RV Management. Because Charters is a newly established village there are more issues and adjustments to be addressed than there may be in an established village (e.g. snagging).

What professional experience do you bring to the role?
I am a retired Chartered Mechanical Engineer and have during the course of my working life been a Director / Managing Director of various companies within a large multinational engineering group.

In my late 40s I was head hunted and persuaded to change career direction, joining a small, dynamic property development company based in London. I soon became its Chief Operating Officer but when we opened an office in Berlin I was deployed in support of that venture, having been a linguist before becoming an engineer and with German one of my languages.

In 1994 I was recalled to London and seconded to The Royal Opera House to take on the responsibility of managing their major redevelopment project. On the successful completion of that project I “retired” and went freelance, acting as a consultant on major development projects to the likes of The Royal Academy, The Tate Gallery, The British Museum, The Royal Shakespeare Company, The South Bank Centre, The London Library, The Inner Temple and others. I believe that this varied background is relevant to my role at Charters.

What do you enjoy about the role?
As ever, dealing with people and helping to solve problems makes for an interesting challenge! Specifically here at Charters the creation of a vibrant self-assured community is a new and enjoyable experience – rather different however from setting up new commercial enterprises.

I have assisted with this by communicating with the Chairs of established villages in the Retirement Villages Group and their advice has been most helpful. Furthermore the variety of issues requiring direction from the “centre” has been stimulating – good for the brain! A great, engaged committee of varied experience is an essential ingredient for success.

How does the Residents Association support you?
I don’t feel that the association has to support me – I rather feel that it is for me to support its members as best I can. However, I would say that that with Charters’ first phase of development peaking at about fifty residents, we all know each other rather well and we have become more of a club than an association. As residents move into Charters’ recently completed second phase of development we will integrate them too.

Name a few achievements
There have been many but perhaps these are the most noteworthy:

  • The establishment of a lively Residents Association (attendance is generally at around 90%) and a representative committee with a set meeting schedule
  • The drafting / acceptance of a constitution for the association
  • The establishment of a comprehensive and varied range of activities
  • A lively social events calendar
  •  A good working dialogue with our Village Manager and senior directors within the Retirement Villages Group
  • A firm basis for a sustainable operating budget on which to base our regular service charge
  • A handy directory containing useful information about Charters, the essential residents’ guide!