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Weston Homes to build £80 million garden village on site of historic Wellcome Factory in Dartford

Leading London and Home Counties house builder Weston Homes has acquired the 7.59 acre Mill Ponds site, once part of the Victorian era Wellcome factory, near Dartford Town Centre. It will be transformed into a £80 million (GDV) mixed-use 400 home waterside ‘Garden Village’: a 21st century take on the garden suburb.

Fronting onto a historic Mill Pond and the River Darent, the new ‘Garden Village’ will provide 400 homes, including one and two bedroom apartments and two and three bedroom houses. Located by Dartford Railway Station, the new settlement will have a build programme of three years. Once complete it will feature a large village pond and local high street providing 28,567 sqft of retail/commercial space complete with 268,990 sqft of residential accommodation consisting of apartment buildings and houses designed around green spaces, leafy lanes and roads.

Inside the M25 motorway and just 30 minutes into central London, the new ‘Garden Village’ will be ideal for families and couples wanting to live in a leafy garden suburb setting within easy commuting distance of the capital.

The Mill Ponds site was once occupied by the Pheonix Paper Mill, built in 1852, with the large mill pond created to help power the facility. This was replaced in 1889 by the Wellcome Pharmaceutical Factory founded by Henry Wellcome and Silas Burroughs.

Initially the factory produced Cod Liver Oil, Malt and Saccharin and supplied medicine chests to explorers, aviators and members of the Royal family. Famous explorers who carried Wellcome medicine chests prepared at the site include H M Stanley (African pioneer), Admiral Peary (first person to reach the North Pole), Captain Amundsen (first to reach the South Pole), Scott of the Antarctic and Shackleton.

In later years the factory produced medicines including Insulin, Migril, Zovirax and Retrovir. In its Edwardian heyday the factory extended beyond its original boundaries and eventually covered 33 acres; employed over 1,300 people and relied on raw materials transported up the River Darent by barge.

After WWII the company opened newer plants on other sites, with the result that by 2008 the Dartford factory was wound down and eventually closed by its then owners GlaxoSmithKline. Plans to remediate and regenerate the former factory’s brownfield land Mill Ponds and neighbouring Northern Gateway sites begun in 2010, with a plan created for the entire 33 acre facility devised by masterplanner Delancey.

Now Weston Homes have purchased and are set to redevelop the most historic part of the facility and transform it into a new garden village. Bob Weston, Chairman & Managing Director of Weston Homes said: “Our new £80 million garden village will transform surplus industrial land and bring it back to use as high quality residential housing and commercial premises. The Mill Pond and river setting will provide attractive waterfeatures for the adjoining homes and the leafy garden suburb inspired design will create a highly attractive place to live. It will be ideal for families and executives wanting a home within the M25 providing easy commuting into central London.”

Bob Weston, Chairman & Managing Director of Weston Homes continues: “Stamp Duty on £2 million plus homes and Mansion Tax concerns has slowed the central London market and focused investor and developer attention on outer London and commuter belt locations where competitive entry prices and Stamp Duty reductions have helped to further increase demand for new homes. Projects in the £300 to £700 per sqft price range is exactly where Weston Homes wishes to focus at present and we believe that this sector of the marketplace will continue to flourish and benefit from sustained demand.”

The acquisition of the Mill Ponds site is part of Weston Homes ongoing £1 billion expansion programme which is set to double the size of the company over the next 4-5 years. In 2014 Weston Homes was provided a £100 million amendment and extension to its existing funding facility (up to 2018) by HSBC and Lloyds which has used to acquire several sites including the Mill Ponds site.

Once redeveloped, the Mill Ponds and neighbouring Northern Gateway sites will provide the South East of England with a large new urban centre, built entirely on brownfield land, providing 1,050 new homes; 53,820 sqft of retail and commercial premises; new cafes and restaurants and landscaped areas, children’s playgrounds and parking facilities. The masterplan forms part of the Government’s much anticipated Garden Suburbs Programme, originally announced in March 2012.

Prices have not been set but are anticipated to start from £150,000 for a circa 500 sqft one bedroom apartment. Construction will begin on site in Summer 2015, with anticipated first occupations and build completion in Autumn 2016. For further information on Weston Homes contact Tel: 01279 873 300 or visit: www.weston-homes.com.