Property editor of the NZ Herald

Kiwi-style retirement comes to London

Battersea Place, London's first New Zealand-style luxury retirement village developed by LifeCare Residences, founded by Kiwi Cliff Cook.
Battersea Place, London's first New Zealand-style luxury retirement village developed by LifeCare Residences, founded by Kiwi Cliff Cook.

There's a Kiwi connection to London's new 108 million-pound ($184m) Battersea Place retirement village.

The project, officially known as Battersea Place LifeCare Residences, has been developed by Guernsey-registered LifeCare Residences International, founded and chaired by New Zealander Cliff Cook.

He is a retirement village pioneer, listed on the NBR Rich List with wealth of $400 million, founder of Metlifecare, New Zealand's second biggest NZX-listed retirement business, and has more than 28 years experience in the sector.

Neville Cook (L) and Cliff Cook. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Neville Cook (L) and Cliff Cook. Photo / Sarah Ivey

He also founded and was an executive member and chairman of the Retirement Villages Association of NZ.

But he wanted more, so in 2004 he entered the British market, having spent more than five years assessing and evaluating it, "understanding the industry and market dynamics and seeking the best option and structures upon which to enter."

LifeCare now owns three British retirement villages: the new Battersea Place - 108 apartments opposite Battersea Park, on the site of a former nurses' home - and in the more rural areas of Grove Place, Hampshire and Somerleigh Court, Dorchester.

Another village is being planned in Britain, at West Hampstead, and LifeCare also has two Auckland villages, one in Remuera and another on Waiheke Island.

His latest project has attracted media attention, including a Guardian article which described it as "London's first luxury retirement village". The Guardian said: "The average price of a home will be 1m pounds and the membership fees alone will be higher than the annual income of a full-time worker on the minimum wage."

The BBC also questioned prices in an article headlined "Nice places, but what's the catch?"

Battersea Place is the first "luxury" retirement community in London.
Battersea Place is the first "luxury" retirement community in London.

Cook, who works with his son Neville, is also an A2 Milk investor, and has built up-market places before. For example, Grove Place has a 16th Century Grade I listed manor house at its heart, housing the retirement village's communal facilities.

Richard Davis, LifeCare Residences' chief executive officer in Kew, London, answers questions about the project.

Are there really no other luxury retirement villages in London?

I know from the NZ perspective, this is hard to believe. But we are the very first luxury retirement community in London. In all of the UK, only 0.5 per cent of the 65-plus population live in retirement villages compared to more than 5 per cent in NZ. When London has the same takeup rate as NZ, we will need another 250 Battersea Place villages to be built to meet demand.

Where do older Londoners go?

Londoners have typically stayed in their home for longer, then moved straight into a nursing home, or downsized into a smaller flat, but without the security, socialisation and care provided in retirement villages, or have moved out of London to a retirement community, away from family, friends and all the things they are familiar with in their local community.

It seems incredible that in a city that big, there are no others. There are so many here and so many being planned, we almost take them for granted in NZ.

This is what attracted Cliff to the United Kingdom, and London in particular, in the first place.

Do people own the properties or, like here, buy a licence to occupy?

Sold on a 150-year lease, which is the standard tenure in the UK.

Can they rent a unit and if so, how much is it?

No rental option in our villages.

What is the price range on the units?

From 535,000 pounds to 3 million pounds ($912,000 to $5.1m).

What is the weekly fee?

265 pounds per week.

The units range from $912,000 to $5.1 million.
The units range from $912,000 to $5.1 million.

Do you have a deferred management fee and if so please explain it: is it like Metlifecare's at 30 per cent after three years, or Ryman Healthcare's 20 per cent after three years?

We have a deferred membership fee and give our residents two options to choose from. Assuming they stay three years or longer, the options are:

Option one - when their apartment is sold, they pay a deferred membership fee of 20 per cent on the amount they originally paid for their apartment. They also share the total capital gain with LifeCare Residences equally on a 50/50 basis. In effect, we divide between us the amount gained in value from when they have bought it until they sell it.

Option two - they pay a deferred membership fee of 30 per cent on the sale price of their property when they leave.

Do people enjoy any capital gain on their units when they are "sold"?

As per the two options above, the outgoing resident is sharing in the capital gain (50 per cent under option one, and 70 per cent under option two).

Is your village financially like New Zealand villages, or different, and if so, can you explain?

Generally yes, Battersea Place runs similarly to New Zealand villages in that there are weekly fees for running the village, there are charges for extra services such as care, housekeeping and meals, and there is a deferred fee at the end. As in NZ, our model is very much focused on keeping the day-to-day costs for the resident as low as possible, and charging our fee at the end. Our aim is that the resident can "enjoy now and pay later".

Can people have pets there and if so, what are the rules?

Yes, residents can have pets including dogs.

Do you have other land in England or Europe which you're developing?

Earlier this year we purchased land in West Hampstead and we are currently preparing our design and application for planning. It will be of a similar scale and value to Battersea Place.

When did you begin development of Battersea?

Development started in September 2013.

How much did you pay for the land and what was on the site previously?

We purchased the land in 2007 for 32m pounds. It previously had a student nurses' hostel on it.

Is development completed and if not, what are the total number of places planned?

It was a very intense development on a one acre site and so it had to be built in one stage. All development on site is completed.

Development on the centre began in 2013.
Development on the centre began in 2013.

What was the biggest hurdle in developing the village?

After planning approval, the biggest hurdle was getting the development funding, given that it was the first of its kind in London and so banks had nothing to reference it against, plus we were in the middle of the global financial crisis which impacted funding much more in the UK than it did in NZ.

LifeCare villages

•Battersea Place, London
•Grove Place, Hampshire
•Somerleigh Court, Dorchester
•Remuera Rise, Auckland
•Waiheke Retirement Village, Auckland
•Now planning new West Hampstead village
Source: Richard Davis, LifeCare Residences

Battersea Place

•108-apartment, 108m-pound retirement village, opened in July
•Top-priced unit sold for 3m pounds
•74 apartments occupied by early October
•20 more sold, residents moving in before Christmas
•30-bed nursing home opening this month
•Patients to pay 2300 pounds/month
•Owned by Kiwi Cliff Cook's LifeCare Residences

- NZ Herald

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