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Celebrating International Women’s Day: Women in Property – Regeneration of the Ascot Estate

In a special piece to mark International Women’s Day (8th March), Jo Sutherland, Associate Director of Magenta Associates reports from a recent Women in Property event.

With only a season to go until the return of Royal Ascot 2019, Women in Property invited Liz Pattinson, Head of Capital Projects and Estate Development at Ascot Racecourse, to share the story behind the regeneration of the Ascot Estate during Women in Property South East’s annual general meeting – a fitting time to explore how fresh starts can lead to new ideas.

The Ascot project breathes life into the current discourse underpinning the built environment industry. By walking the audience through the journey to date, Pattinson offered insight into how professionals working within the built environment can embrace a sense of purpose and contribute even greater social value by supporting the local economies in which they operate. She also highlighted the industry’s potential, including examples of how property strategy and estate development can help to encourage social interaction, connectivity and wellness. The end goal, of course, is to create a destination and deliver an outstanding experience.

Ascot Racecourse has a long history, dating back to 1711. The Queen Elizabeth II grandstand opened at a cost of circa £1 million in 1961 and 52 years later it was demolished and rebuilt 52 years at the slightly higher cost of circa £210 million. The venue hosts 26 racedays a year including 18 flat and eight jump races. Around 200 full-time employees service a vast property portfolio that comprises business-critical buildings (those that support raceday activity), ancillary, commercial, residential buildings and staff housing. Up to 300,000 people attend Royal Ascot over the five-day period. Between them, they consume 51,000 bottles of champagne, 160,000 jugs of Pimm’s and 10,000 Angus steaks.

Understandably, the racecourse is the key attraction within the Ascot area – not forgetting the 100 horses that race each day. Up until 2012, the surrounding areas didn’t get as much love and attention, despite the fact that 18,000 cars drive down the High Street every single day. Six years ago, The Prince’s Foundation was approached by the Neighbourhood Plan Group to facilitate a series of workshops. A report was produced a year later which, following consultation and local community engagement, identified four categories, serving as the basis for the design moving forward:

  1. High street and local economy
  2. Transport and infrastructure
  3. Community amenities
  4. Housing

The vision is to enhance the High Street and transform Ascot for the local community by boosting daytime and night time economy through new community facilities, a local village square and green space to the south side of a new two-sided High Street that will have a range of small retail units suited to independents. Key to these improvements and the efficient flow of traffic is ensuring that parking is improved, and that the new streets provide safe and accessible pedestrian and cycle routes, particularly east-west routes parallel to the High Street. To enable this rejuvenation, a high-quality development of new homes will be provided, reflecting good local examples of architecture that respond well to the green and leafy character of Ascot.  The work undertaken to date, by the Consortium group set up to deliver the Ascot Centre development project, has culminated in submission of a Development Brief to the Council ahead of future planning applications.

You would struggle to find a more fitting example of how a regeneration programme can generate social value. But it doesn’t end there. Ascot’s charitable activity has raised over £1.5 million for the Prince’s Countryside Fund since 2014. In 2018 alone, £40,000 was donated to local charities and community initiatives, £20,000 was given in hospitality donations for charity auctions, and over 650 race day tickets were donated to school and charities.

Much like Ascot’s commitment to the community it serves, Women in Property has a purpose of its own. The forum for women who are working in every pocket of the property industry believes that success and its rewards should be founded on merit and expertise rather than gender, and the association’s 13 nationwide branches work tirelessly to encourage an exchange of ideas and expertise. Last week’s event is testament to the fact that Women in Property creates opportunities, expands knowledge and inspires change for women working in the property and construction industry.

For more information about the membership benefits, please visit: https://www.womeninproperty.org.uk/non-members/how-to-join/

About Sarah OBeirne

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