Into the Blue

The Dunes in Perranporth is a very special development, but then Acorn Property Group are very special developers.

The mix of thirty-five houses and apartments and a new beachside restaurant, built on the site of the old Ponsmere Hotel, is situated directly on the beautiful sandy bay of this popular north Cornwall seaside town. The Dunes is one of several exciting joint ventures Acorn Property Group is undertaking with Galliard Homes.

The stunning properties at ‘The Dunes’ not only offer the best of contemporary living but enjoy the most spectacular, uninterrupted views of the superb, golden beach and Atlantic swell. Little surprise then that when the properties were released for sale in October, Acorn Blue, which is Acorn Property Group’s Cornish brand, had already received almost three thousand expressions of interest. Two days before the launch a queue of potential buyers began to form, braving nights out in the open to ensure they secured their dream home. To date, thirty-one of the thirty-five homes have been reserved with just the larger 4 bedroom ‘Beach Houses’ yet to be released.

Acorn Property Group is a highly successful development company founded in 1995 by Romy Summerskill and John Skok. Romy gained substantial experience of the London property market during her years as an estate agent whilst John was from a construction background. Today Acorn Property Group has five regional offices in London, Bristol, Cardiff, Hampshire and Cornwall, the last being the home of Acorn Blue. Romy remains Chair of the group and still plays an active role in the company overseeing group management, development design and expansion. Combined, Acorn has somewhere in the region of 1,000 units under construction and forecasts projects with a GDV of approximately £350m for 2018.

Acorn Blue is jointly managed by Joint Regional Managing Director and Group Sales Director, Nicola Markham and Joint Managing Director and Land Director Stuart Brereton. The team have a passion for coastal living with the majority of their schemes being coastal. As well as The Dunes in Perranporth, Acorn Blue is also building in St Ives, St Austell and Fowey, to name but a few. Acorn Blue has their own dedicated sales and marketing teams and their construction team are acting as main contractors for the £10m project at The Dunes.

Last month Acorn Blue won the ‘Best Residential Development Cornwall’ category at the UK Property Awards for its Old Station Master’s House development in Fowey, the restoration of a beautiful historic former train station, and were winners in the same category at the UK Property Awards in 2016 for their One Lusty Glaze development in Newquay, another hotel redevelopment.

Work on The Dunes started in April 2016 with the demolition of the old Ponsmere Hotel. The hotel was once a prominent local landmark and had been a successful family run business since the mid 1920s. However, a gradual decline in bookings caused by changes to UK tourism, combined with a lack of funds for investment and modernisation, had left the hotel losing money and it had been on the market for eight years before Acorn Blue acquired it in 2014. Structural limitations of the building meant that substantial remodelling wasn’t possible and so a ground up redevelopment of the site was the only viable option.

There was some inevitable local resistance to the development but with the hotel continuing to deteriorate and no ‘Plan B’ for the Ponsmere, most of those initially against Acorn Blue’s plans saw that the alternative would most likely be a derelict and decaying eyesore in the most prominent spot on the beach. The Dunes, with its stunning homes and contemporary beachside restaurant would be a positive addition to the landscape and keep much needed jobs in the town.

Melanie Omirou, Group Managing Director & Funding Director of Acorn Property Group, is also responsible for the procurement of all development, equity and investment funding for the company. She was instrumental in the launch of Acorn Blue, directing the subsidiary from 2009 to 2013 and overseeing the new operation in its formative years. She has known and worked with UTB’s Property Development Director Jonathan Nail for over 15 years.

“We enjoy working with Jonathan and United Trust Bank and it’s all about having a strong relationship,” says Melanie. “UTB stand out from many other funders in several areas. They understand property and they understand our needs as borrowers, but they also respect that we are very good at what we do and will always deliver. They’re much more supportive than a high street lender and like to get more closely involved in the projects. However, they don’t meddle. They’re happy to share their knowledge and experience but also understand that we know how to build outstanding properties and we know our market and our customers better than anyone.”

Jonathan Nail, has a relationship with Acorn stretching back to the 90s when the company was founded and has worked closely with Melanie Omirou since she joined Acorn in 2002. UTB has provided the funding on a number of Acorn Blue’s developments including The Sands in Polzeath, The Beach in Porthtowan and The Apartments in Crantock Bay.

“By building exceptional, quality homes in carefully chosen locations, Acorn Blue has become a strong and sought after housing brand,” says Jonathan. “They’ve establishedsuch a great reputation that they now have people contacting them because they specifically want to buy an Acorn Blue home. There aren’t many house builders who have that kind of relationship with their buyers and I’m always very happy to hear from Melanie when she’s sourcing funding for their next project.”

Acorn Blue’s ‘Different by Design’ ethos ensures that each development is unique, with every property designed to suit the individual location, local market and the site’s strengths. There’s no such thing as a ‘standard’ Acorn home with the company’s architects committed to providing high quality properties and adding value through strong design and imagination.

We spoke to Melanie soon after the Chancellor’s Autumn budget and we asked her what impact she felt economic uncertainty and Brexit would have on Acorn Property Group’s business.

“I feel that as long as we continue to buy the best sites in outstanding locations and have sensible sale price expectations we will remain unaffected. We don’t rely on the buy to let market or foreign investment and we provide a product which we believe will remain sought after in any market. Working with supportive lenders like United Trust Bank and inspirational and flexible JV partners such as Galliard Homes, I believe that Acorn Group will continue to thrive.”

Looking at The Dunes as it takes shape in its commanding position on the beach and the fabulous homes it will provide next summer, it’s no surprise there was such a remarkable response to the sales launch.Acorn Blue is clearly on to another winner.And if the quality and success of this development is anything to go by, Acorn’sfuture will be very bright indeed.