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Councils praised for support of housing developers

Date: 10.03.2020 Written by Alex Mattingly

Three local authorities have been praised for their commitment to supporting small and medium (SME) housebuilders.

Planning departments in Medway, Maidstone and Swale have begun working with an SME Network which brings together the teams behind the delivery of local small and medium, high quality, bespoke housing developments.

This is because the local authorities understand the crucial role these developers have in helping to meet the Government’s challenging housing targets, alongside the larger, volume-focused housebuilders.

Dave Harris, Head of Planning at Medway Council, explained: “It’s great to see small developers recognising the role they can play by working together in this network. We are pleased to work with them. In recent years the proportion of new homes created by small housebuilders has dropped from almost 50 per cent to 10 per cent. This needs to be addressed.

“If we are to meet the government’s housing targets and support our local economy, then we must make use of small housebuilders who are willing to take on high quality projects on smaller sites across Medway, rejuvenating communities and improving the diversity of our housing offer.”

The SME Network is currently a group of more than 20 small to medium housebuilders, ranging from companies that build between one and 100 homes a year. The network was formed to bring together a group of similar-sized companies to discuss challenges in the planning system and explore how to better deliver high quality schemes as a collective.

Paul Henry, Managing Director of Esquire Developments, a founding member of the SME Network, explains: “The response from the three councils has been great. They really appreciate the importance of small housebuilders and are being incredibly receptive to our efforts as a group. This was reaffirmed by Chief Planner to the Government Steve Quartermain, when he attended our last meeting.

“The whole purpose of the SME Network is that it’s open to everyone and there’s always opportunity in the room. For some of us it’s about working together to discuss a planning issue, whereas for others it might be about cashflow or site identification. It’s up to each developer to decide how to make the most of it.

“We’re all experiencing the same issues and by working through them together means we can improve our performance and go from being individuals to becoming a group that has a voice.”

The SME network is open to any SME developer – whether that’s building houses or apartments, or specialising in conversions (in any shape or size). No limit has been put on membership and there is no fee to join. At present it includes businesses from across Kent who are active in Medway, Maidstone and Swale, however there is no geographical limit, if organisations or local authorities from elsewhere wish to join then the group is open to expansion.

Paul added: “We don’t actually know how many SME housebuilders there are in Kent and Medway, what we do know is that we’re stronger if we work together.”

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