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Ranked the ninth largest developer of affordable homes in the UK, housing association Bromford has invested in a land team to match its growing housebuilding ambitions. Planning manager Becky Crann joined the sector fresh from consultancy side in March 2019 and talks about the growing influence of her team.

Although a relative newbie to Bromford, I’m reliably informed by the longer serving members of our team that our in-house land and planning function – which sits within the broader new homes team – has tripled over the past five years. This is perhaps not surprising given the launch of a new business strategy which commits to building 14,000 homes over the course of the next decade – a significant acceleration in the delivery of social and affordable rented, shared ownership, and outright sale homes across our Midlands and West of England geography.

My position as planning manager was new for Bromford, offering in-house planning knowledge for the very first time rather than outsourcing that expertise during the planning process. Day-to-day my role is varied; giving planning advice on land and development opportunities, getting involved in pre-app discussions and finalising technical reports so we can progress with land offers and legal agreements. Another crucial task is identifying potential planning issues at an early stage, avoiding unnecessary or abortive costs or delays in the process of obtaining land. All of which creates a more efficient service both for Bromford but also for the partners we regularly work with. From sales to lettings and regeneration to construction, the land and planning team work closely with teams from across Bromford as well as with external clients often for an all-important coffee and cake over an informal catch-up.

The formation of a planning manager role might have been a first for Bromford but it was also a first for me in many respects. Coming from a consultancy background with no previous experience in social housing, the past 11 months have definitely been a great learning curve and it might sound like a cliché but I’m still learning about new terminology and processes every single day. And as we increasingly compete with some of the big private housebuilders on a mixed-market approach, which includes a significant focus on land-led development, it has been great to see the wider new homes team both develop existing talent but also bring in a wealth of PLC-led experience with fresh ideas and impetus. This has come at a time of great transformation of course, with Bromford going through two mergers since July 2018 in order to strengthen our financial core and ability to have an even greater impact and influence in the communities we serve.

Market confidence

Perhaps the best aspect of me moving in-house, and in particular to Bromford, has been the strong sense of shared purpose. Bromford is very clear about its purpose: investing in homes and relationships so people can thrive. And that means we’re all working towards a joint goal and can better identify what we’re after in terms of land for the long-term. Sadly, there’s still a real stigma around housing associations and the people who live in our homes and so the opportunity to change or challenge people’s perceptions on affordable housing is really quite exciting and feels like planning with a social conscience rather than just increasing profits. What we often find is that land agents, land owners and local authority partners are not only impressed by our honest and transparent approach and of course the competitive land values we offer, but more often than not they’re also interested in our different approach to housing management through the localities model and our mission to invest in these communities for the longer-term.

Demand for land is almost certain to stay high and with the relative stability of the political landscape following years of uncertainty, 2020 could potentially see a steady rise in market confidence over the buying and selling of land. With that in mind, the team is ready to respond to varying market conditions and deliver an excellent service to our clients as well as providing value as Bromford look to build the new homes this country desperately needs.

If you think you might have some land to sell, or know someone that might, we’re always around for a quick, no-obligation chat so please pick up the phone and call us on 07973 342036 or email ian.humphries@bromford.co.uk.

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