The first spade has gone into the ground at Latimer’s £83m (gross development value) Cocoa Gardens development in York, with several key local stakeholders from York City Council and Homes England attending a ceremony to officially mark the start of construction.

Councillor Joy Cullwick, Lady Mayoress of York; Councillor Michael Pavlovic, executive member for housing, planning and safer communities at York City Council; and Councillor Peter Kilbane, deputy leader of the council and member for economy and transport at York City Council, were present for the ceremony at the site of the £83m development. They were joined by Dilys Jones, assistant director, affordable housing growth at Homes England.

The scheme is being delivered by Latimer, the development arm of Clarion Housing Group, the UK’s largest housing association and the principal contractor on the project is Lovell. Homes England is a strategic partner on the scheme having awarded Latimer a £249.7m grant to support developments across the country through its Affordable Homes Programme 2021-26.

Cocoa Gardens is the latest phase of Latimer’s work to regenerate the former Rowntree’s Factory site, which was established in 1890 and played home to some of the nation’s most loved confectionery brands including KitKat, Aero and Smarties, to create a vibrant new community.

It will see 302 homes built on the site of the former Rowntree’s factory gardens and is the latest stage in work to create a new housing-led development at the famous Rowntree’s site. It follows Latimer’s transformation of the Rowntree’s Factory itself, which is being redeveloped to create 279 luxury apartments known as The Cocoa Works.

Over a third of the homes (36 per cent) at Cocoa Gardens will be available on an affordable basis, with 56 homes available through shared ownership and 54 through affordable rent. This complements the 84 homes available through shared ownership at The Cocoa Works.

Speaking about the development, Joy Cullwick, the Lady Mayoress of York said: “It’s fantastic to see the famous former Rowntree factory being redeveloped in a way which reflects the heritage and values that have long been associated with the site.

“Joseph Rowntree was ahead of his time on the well-being of workers and the wider social value his business contributed to York and this ethos will be carried through by Latimer in the homes they build.

“This development will create a vibrant and inclusive new community and Cocoa Gardens and Cocoa Works will usher in an exciting new chapter for York.”

Cocoa Gardens will offer a range of one to five-bed homes and apartments, with the first homes to be available in Summer 2024.

Community amenities will be available to residents at both The Cocoa Works and Cocoa Gardens. These include a shared concierge, located in the refurbished Joseph Rowntree Memorial Library building, co-working spaces, a community shop, an on-site café, and private working booths.
Richard Cook, group development director at Latimer said: “It’s tremendously exciting to be officially underway with construction at Cocoa Gardens – our next step in regenerating the iconic former Rowntree’s Factory and its grounds.

“Cocoa Gardens will make a huge contribution in creating a vibrant and diverse community at this iconic site, delivering quality, tenure blind homes as part of a sustainable development that will provide much-needed affordable homes for York.”
Robert Adams, regional managing director at Lovell added: “At Lovell, we have a strong commitment to joint venture working and really value our partnerships.

“Over the last 50 years, we have forged relationships with local authorities all over the country, with a drive to provide affordable housing for those who need it. Working with communities as they transform themselves is at the heart of our vision and we are proud to be working on behalf of Clarion Housing at the Cocoa Gardens development in the heart of York."

As the development arm of Clarion Housing Group, Latimer is committed to building homes for all tenures and reinvests any surplus back into the organisation to support its social mission.