For a housing association historically rooted in London and the South East, this was a big move.
However, the housing crisis is a national issue, and in response to this L&Q has committed to delivering 100,000 new homes in the next decade, at least 50% of which will be genuinely affordable.
We made our first steps towards this in February 2017, with the acquisition of Gallagher Estates, a leading strategic land company who own or control over 8,500 acres of land across the country at various stages of the planning and development process.
Whilst Gallagher’s have continued to promote land through the planning process, deliver infrastructure and sell serviced plots, this acquisition also gave L&Q a platform to invest in setting up its new regional development team.
On 1 February 2019, Gallagher Estates became L&Q Estates.
This enabled us to provide the full Master Developer role, covering the full spectrum of development from planning promotion, infrastructure delivery and developing, to housing and estate management.
In November 2018, L&Q’s Counties team received our first detailed planning consents on land acquired from L&Q Estates -225 homes in Milton Keynes and 60 homes in Tiddington, Warwickshire.
In December 2018 we also submitted planning for 450 homes in Gallows Hill, Warwick.
Moving into new areas is exciting, but has meant we are doing everything from scratch.
So, what are the main challenges we have faced so far?
Firstly, we have had to develop our own house types, court new subcontractors and tap into local supply chains – investing time in building relationships with tradespeople and suppliers. This is vital to create long term partnerships as we grow our regional business.
Secondly, creating successful communities requires developing a local presence and understanding of the areas we work in.
We are appointing locally based community liaison managers to build relationships with stakeholders from an early stage.
In Tiddington, for example, we worked with Mind to provide a shed and tools at a local allotment, which will be used to aid patients recovering from head injuries, and funded upgrades to a Scout Hut.
Thirdly, we must deliver the same fundamental service to our residents no matter where they are, whether its Stratford in East London or Stratford Upon Avon.
As a charitable organisation, our role goes beyond providing homes and housing services.
We act as a long-term partner, from investing in communities through our £250 million L&Q Foundation and Skills Academy, or providing housing and other assistance to older and vulnerable people through our care and support subsidiary, L&Q Living.
For a housing association like L&Q, everything has to begin with a social purpose.
Expanding into new areas creates challenges – from establishing logistics, building relationships, and delivering vital services to our residents.
However, we set out to provide quality, affordable homes for the most vulnerable in society, and whilst we are expanding across the UK, it is that fundamental mission that still drives us today.