Explain your role
Essentially, my role entails sourcing and enabling land in line with Bewley Homes’ business strategy over the medium to long term, including promotion of sites and applying for planning permission. This is an exciting and challenging role, involving a fair bit of travel, interaction with a wide group of stakeholders and the ability to make a positive difference to local communities.
What’s strategic land?
One of the best ways I can illustrate it is by way of example. I joined Bewley 25 years ago and on my first day I was handed a land file by Andrew Brooks for a strategic land site we had an option. It was my first project. Two decades later we finally got full planning consent! So, sometimes strategic land is a long game by trying to get sites included in the local plan. That takes strategic planning, many meetings, tireless communications, a bit of luck and a lot of patience.
What is it about working for Bewley that you find most rewarding?
Seeing the vision of my plans come into fruition in the construction of beautifully designed homes in the areas where I have helped source and secure the land. That is incredibly gratifying. Bewley Homes has recently launched its ‘Garden Village Collection’ – a portfolio of beautifully crafted homes which will form the cornerstone of our developments and provide a wonderful backdrop for new communities.
What’s the future for housebuilding?
We are living in exciting and challenging times. It is incontrovertible that the UK has an urgent need for more housing but there is a disconnect between the policy set out by central Government and political agenda at a local level. The current challenge, amidst the wider political and economic backdrop, is the age-old problem of how the housing market is going to be fixed and the challenge remains how we can accelerate housebuilding, both in the private and affordable sectors whilst at the same time providing well-constructed homes for people to live in and which remain financially viable for businesses to invest in.
The Government’s standardised calculation for housing requirements is a step in the right direction but, according to the latest report from Shelter, the number of new homes being built per annum already needs to be at 300,000 – and, out of that number, at least 50% need to be designated as affordable. It is going to be essential for both government and the industry to persuade the general population to accept that higher targets for housing are both economically and socially essential.
We also need to urgently move forward the agenda for decarbonisation and building new homes which have a significantly lesser impact on the environment. We not only build homes but also communities with opportunities for including a wide range of ecological and biodiversity opportunities.
What’s your advice to those considering or applying for a job in housebuilding right now?
As a planner, the most natural career path is to work within the local authority sector and, as a result, there has always tended to be dearth of talented planners within housebuilding. Yet, the construction industry can offer a varied and exciting alternative pathway for young planners and one I would encourage all to consider. From an industry perspective, if we are to meet the Government’s ambitious new homes targets over the coming years, this is something that needs to be addressed now.
There is certainly plenty of opportunity for young planning graduates within companies such as Bewley Homes. Individuals will find they are able to make a genuine contribution, surrounded by others who have the knowledge and expertise to guide them at that very important primary stage in their careers, and help to provide those much-needed new homes, meticulously planned to help alleviate the urgent requirement for accommodation whilst at the same time planning the necessary infrastructure and aesthetic detail required to make a development and future community, a success.