Cadbury Housing Is Worth Keeping Sweet

One of the world’s biggest business stories this week – food giant Kraft’s bid for the UK-based confectioner Cadbury – has a very human dimension, too.

Cadbury has been making chocolate products in the UK’s Midlands for 170 years but it has a philanthropic property history, too. In the mid-18th century the Cadbury family chose not to build the ‘typical’ workers’ homes (small, ugly, cramped and uber-urban in design) but instead created rectangular cottages, each one with a large garden.

By 1895, 143 cottages were built on the 140 acres the family owned. The first houses were built in straight rows with no more than four houses in a terrace, but this soon gave way to more interesting 'garden village' layouts with each home having its own front garden, and at the back a vegetable garden with fruit trees.

Building was restricted on each plot to prevent gardens being overshadowed and to keep the rural feel, and early homes were sold with 999-year leases to maintain the rural appearance of the district. Mortgages were then made available for would-be purchasers who worked for Cadbury.

It’s a very humane approach for a large employer and the same philanthropy exists today. The Bournville Trust, which now runs Cadbury housing, has 1,000 acres of land accommodating 7,600 homes; many are shared-ownership or self-built, some are co-op run and others are ‘pure’ private. All create a sense of ‘place’.

In the hard-nosed real estate world, there are few heroic examples of housing communities but this is one – and it must not be lost as Cadbury loses its business independence.

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