Jockey Club Estates take steps to help housing problem facing racing staff

31st August 2016 Newmarket
  • Plans for new dwellings for racing staff unveiled

Jockey Club Estates today announced plans to help address one of the most pressing issues facing the horseracing industry in Newmarket, namely the supply and retention of quality staff and the lack of suitable accommodation in which to house the sport’s employees.

Jockey Club Estates will be seeking planning permission to build 145 new dwellings specifically for racing staff. It also revealed an initiative to make trainers aware whenever any of its existing properties become available to rent, making them available to racing staff based in Newmarket.

Mark Tompkins, Chairman of the Newmarket Trainers’ Federation, welcomed the news and said: “The lack of housing that is both suitable and within the means of racing staff is undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges we face and it is excellent news that Jockey Club Estates is planning to develop housing on their land specifically for the industry’s employees.

“We have the good news that more and more owners want to have horses trained here in Newmarket, where the facilities and support services are second to none. However, as trainers we are really struggling to attract and retain quality staff and the over-riding reason is the lack of availability of suitable housing.”

The level of concern felt by trainers regarding the shortage of suitable staff accommodation was conveyed in a recent consultation with Jockey Club Estates and is reflected by Racing Welfare, the charity that provides support to British racing’s workforce, in a recently published report titled, “Identifying the housing need in the horseracing industry.”

Dawn Goodfellow, Chief Executive of Racing Welfare said: “Our report established that there is a genuine lack of quality housing that is affordable for people working in the racing industry. It was one of the main factors highlighted by staff for leaving racing and by employers as a barrier to employing good quality people to enable them to grow successful businesses.”

The Jockey Club Estates plan for 145 new dwellings will be split between two adjacent sites, both located off Hamilton Road, Newmarket. One site, Philipps Close, has housing already and will be re-developed, and the other site has an historic allocation for racing housing dating back to the 1995 Local Plan. Both sites are identified as Preferred Sites for racing related housing in the emerging Local Plan.

William Gittus, Managing Director of Jockey Club Estates, said: “We have been working up plans in tandem with the Local Plan process to build much needed accommodation for racing staff. The proposal is to build one, two and three bed properties, all of which will be subject to a racing-related occupancy restriction.

“The properties will continue to be owned, let and managed by Jockey Club Estates. We propose that Forest Heath District Council’s Housing Department would have nomination rights to any dwellings that form the Affordable Housing element of the scheme.

“There is a fair bit of work to be done before we are ready to submit a planning application but we have appointed Bidwells as project managers and Ingleton Wood as the scheme’s architects to help us develop more detailed layouts and house designs. There is a clear and urgent need for this housing, so we would like to be in a position to submit an application in early 2017.

“In the meantime, we will be setting up a focus group to assist the architects in producing designs that will suit the specific needs of staff working in the racing industry. We are excited about this scheme which we believe will benefit the town of Newmarket and the local economy, as well as the racing industry staff who will occupy the houses.

“In addition, we have introduced a process to ensure that trainers are made aware when any of our existing housing stock becomes available for rent so they can make staff aware. This has been well received and is up and running already.

“In another example of the racing industry working together to solve its problems, the Committee for the Newmarket Open Weekend 2016 (17th-18th September) has agreed that 90% of the money raised over the weekend will be placed in a restrictive fund in the care of Racing Welfare to develop accommodation specifically for young people working in racing.”

Since 2010 the number of horses in training in Newmarket has increased from an average figure of 2,172 to 2,529 in 2015. There are currently over 83 trainers registered with horses using the Newmarket training grounds and it is estimated that horseracing is directly responsible for more than 3,300 jobs and an overall total of 8,500 jobs in the Newmarket area.

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