As one element of the MF Freeman group of companies is our housebuilding division, Freeman Homes, we monitor and analyse housing market trends. It is therefore of great interest to us that the area in which we are based, the beautiful Forest of Dean, is currently subject to a period of growth in the housing market.

Historically a mining region, the Forest of Dean has suffered in recent decades from the decline of the mining industry and now relies heavily on tourism to support its economy. As a result, house prices have previously been below the national average (per m2) across the district. However, two factors have changed in recent months which have disrupted this pattern.

Earlier this year, The Independent published date from Rightmove, the largest provider of consumer data about the UK housing market, showing that although the market as a whole has experienced a downturn over the past year, there are a number of ‘hotspots’ which have bucked the trend. One of these is Newport in South Wales. Connected to Bristol and the M4 corridor by the Severn Bridge, the city has seen an upturn in investment from residential developers and commercial interests. It also easily accessible from the Forest of Dean, and it is likely that the increasing demand, which outstrips Newport’s current housing supply, is spilling over onto the Forest, giving the localised housing market a boost. Closely linked with this is the second major factor: the removal of the toll to cross the Severn Bridge. When the tolls cease, it is anticipated that businesses on both sides of the river will experience a trade boost, and employment opportunities will attract a wider applicant pool once the barrier of the costly commute is overcome.

The combination of the two factors has increased the Forest’s desirability as a residential area, leading to a 17.9% increase in housing prices from the comparable month in 2017. The information, which is published by HM Land Registry as part of a national data set, will be welcome news for homeowners already on the ladder in the area. However, it will increase the challenge for first-time buyers or those looking to get out of the rental market.

Studies have shown that getting the right housing offer, including the mixture of house sizes, types and geographical availability, can significantly influence localised economies. It can boost the attraction and retention of a skilled workforce that encourages inward investment, and housing investment in itself can help to drive local economic activity. Provided the housing offer is carefully balanced, new developments can build clusters of additional localised wealth that is then redistributed into the area’s economy.

Our upcoming Freeman Homes development in Newnham on Severn includes a careful mixture of house types. It is comprised of a range of homes, including houses designed to provide accessible accommodation to first time buyers, which we hope will provide more opportunities for those striving to get on the property ladder in the Forest district. It also contains homes that will appeal to skilled professionals looking to take advantage of the cost-free Severn crossing but wanting a more rural lifestyle. It is our hope that this considered mix will both help to meet the rising housing demand and bring an influx of diverse skills to boost the local economy and workforces, helping to support the community in which we are based.


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