Chief Executive of The Housing Forum, Shelagh Grant, speaks to Claire Clutten about the importance of sharing best practice and working in partnership to achieve successful outcomes on housing projects. These themes are reflected in the seminar programme at The Housing Forum’s next Development Partnerships Forum on the 17th June.
The Housing Forum is running four Development Partnerships Forum events this year, with the ‘Focus on the North West’ webinar next week, the second in the series. However, Shelagh is keen to point out that while the next event is called the ‘Focus on the North West’, “it’s not exclusively for the North West, in fact what we’re finding is that people from London, the Midlands and the South are genuinely interested in the approaches being taken in different parts of the country and feel that they can learn from them.” Hosting the events online has helped facilitate this sharing of knowledge and best practice.
Shelagh says: “We work in partnership, we work collaboratively and this has been an ongoing series that’s looked at major regeneration and master planning partnerships, and the factors that make them successful.”
The event will showcase examples of where local authorities, together with a housing association partner, have commissioned a developer to undertake a project and discuss the progress being made along with the outcomes of these partnerships. Shelagh says the best projects: “are able to mature over time as circumstances change, Brexit and COVID-19 for example, but also because the partners begin to realise they can work in different ways to achieve better outcomes.”
Shelagh says that fundamentally the aim of the Forum series is “to promote partnerships and to help newer entrants into the market understand how these partnerships work. It’s a very good idea to invest a number of months in understanding respective roles and responsibilities of all the development team and particularly client and contractor so you can get the best results out at the end of the day.”
“Over the past three or four years we’ve seen a steady constant interest from a wide range of local authorities in partnership working, and we want to support and our membership is very keen to support that as well,” says Shelagh. “When you’re working with local authority partners, obviously you are looking for commercial viability because that’s been the motivation behind some councils entering into the arena, but it’s not what’s solely driving councils, they are looking for quality outcomes, affordability and the best mix of homes for local communities.”
Next week’s Development Partnerships Forum will highlight a number of interesting housing development schemes that illustrate what can be achieved through successful partnership working, and against the backdrop of the pandemic, kicking off with presentations covering several key projects in Manchester. Alan Caddick, Interim Director of Housing and Residential Growth at Manchester City Council, will talk about The Manchester Residential Growth agenda, discussing what the Council is continuing to do in a very transformative offer for housing in the city. Manchester has historically been dominated by heavy industry within the city centre, this is now an area where thousands of people live. Shelagh says: “It’s just an amazing transformation.”
Martyn Evans, Creative Director at U + I, will be delivering a talk specifically on the ‘Mayfield Regeneration, Progressing through the Pandemic’. “Mayfield is across the road from Piccadilly Station, previously the old freight depot with a lot of underground tunnels that you didn’t know were there, you just had to walk around a very large perimeter road,” says Shelagh.
The Northern Gateway project in Manchester, delivered as a partnership including The Guinness Partnership, will also feature. The Northern Gateway is beyond the city centre in a historically heavily developed area with plans for complete regeneration.
The Guinness Partnership will be talking about their schemes in Lancashire, as well as West Yorkshire, projects with a similar heritage that really needed to be tackled in a partnership way to succeed. Shelagh believes exploring these projects is a great way to open the event, sharing valuable insight on their delivery that other local authorities and their developer partners can learn from and look to implement elsewhere.
Suzanne Benson, Managing Partner at Trowers & Hamlins in Manchester, will be delivering a presentation about shared ownership, which is a significant part of the Government’s current affordable housing programme.
The event will also look at developments including the City Deal that Lancaster City Council and its local authority partners have secured. Projects are becoming increasingly more complex and all encompassing. By collaborating with university/higher education providers and other partners, bringing in the strength of enterprise partnerships, vital infrastructure deals including road and transportation etc that are so important to the overall success of projects, can be delivered. This will be explored in more detail in the presentation covering the Lancaster City Deal example.
Deborah McLaughlin, Director of DMCL & Associates and Non Executive Director of Mulbury, will be talking about the City Deal and about ‘Homes for local Communities in Cheshire and Lancashire’, discussing the community based housing projects Mulbury has undertaken in market towns. Shelagh says projects like these and the Mayfield development are very far thinking: “They’ll be looking at what we’ve learnt through the pandemic, the importance of community and flexible spaces and so on,” topics which as we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, are crucial.
Shelagh highlights the importance of starting conversations, learning from other’s experiences and trying new things: “If you hear from one part of the country somebody has tried something slightly different that you haven’t thought of, it gives you the confidence to have an open mind and think well, it might need a few modifications to work in our area but it’s worth exploring. Once you’ve got a client with a strong vision, then they can lead the process through.”
Attending the event
The Development Partnerships Forum #2 ‘Focus on the North West’ webinar will run from 10am to 12.30pm on Thursday 17th June. If you would like to learn more about the projects mentioned above and register to attend the event to join in the discussion, please visit: https://us06web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZctd-GrpzkrHdUKGohFKgTfjeLTTKx9nbR9
In September The Housing Forum will be hosting an event focusing on the South East and South West and in December the final event in the series for this year will focus on London and the Midlands. For more information on those events visit: https://housingforum.org.uk/events
Header image of Manchester city centre from above ©Chris/Adobestock.