Hampshire-headquartered Metis Homes has unlocked three residential development opportunities in the heart of the South Downs National Park West Sussex, with a bespoke solution to achieve water neutrality.
Being delivered in partnership with Cowdray Estate and spread across three distinct parcels of land, 58 new homes can now be constructed within the historic village of Easebourne. Each site will provide a selection of homes, from one- and two-bedroom apartments, through to two-, three- and four-bedroom houses. The three sites include the former Easebourne Primary School, land to the north of Egmont Road, and the Cowdray Works Yard.
In October 2021, Natural England released a position statement which highlighted concerns over the potential impacts of groundwater abstraction from the Sussex North Water Resource (Supply) Zone, and the resulting impact on the River Arun SAC. Natural England stipulated that unless it can be demonstrated that there is no negative impact, no net increase in groundwater abstraction was acceptable, in other words, all new developments in the area must demonstrate water neutrality by not using more water than the previous site.
Mike Burton, Director of Metis Homes, said: “In order to achieve water neutrality within Easebourne, highly innovative mitigation techniques had to be devised and technically planned.
“The concept behind water neutrality is that the volume of water used by the new homes in the future has to be no greater than the historic baseline use of a site, or otherwise needs to be offset in order to achieve neutrality. With these three sites, we had to assess the baseline water usage, which we found by looking at the records of historical water usage, and then consider the mitigation opportunities which could be appropriate.
“There are two main ways we reach water neutrality, including rainwater harvesting and improving the water efficiency measures for the new homes on each site, alongside an off-setting of the remaining water deficit by removing existing properties from the mains supply, instead connecting them to private boreholes. Our partner, The Cowdray Estate, has played a crucial role in this concept becoming a reality. A report provided by specialist consultants Envireau Water explained how the new homes have been designed to maximise water efficiency, in addition to the rainwater harvesting and the borehole solution to meet the remaining deficit and achieve neutrality.
“At Metis Homes, we are very proud of our reputation for delivering high quality homes, and this new approach to water usage will help to ensure we can continue to build homes made for the future generations. Given the invested time, resources, and unforeseen costs required to reach this breakthrough, we and Cowdray are pleased to be recognised as one of the first to achieve water neutrality in this region with a bespoke solution, where so much planned residential construction elsewhere has stalled.” Following finalisation of the S106 obligations with South Downs National Park Authority and Chichester District Council, all three Easebourne sites will be developed, in what will be a major partnership between Metis Homes and Cowdray Estate. It has taken Metis Homes’ land, planning and design teams three years of working alongside the Local Authority and all stakeholders to reach this significant milestone. JTP Architects – a nationally renowned London-based practice – has designed the three projects in dialogue with Metis Homes and the South Downs National Park Authority, which reflect the architectural characteristics of the local vicinity.