Although I loved my job with Housemartin Housing Association, there was no path for promotion and feeling excited about my prospects, having gained such a broad experience, I was ambitious and hungry for more. But jobs in Development were few and far between and it soon became clear I would have to move out of the area, so I headed down South.
I was fortunate to get a job as Development Officer with Paradigm Housing Association in Buckinghamshire and after working there Monday to Friday for some time, I made plans to move my family too. However, the property market was booming and I was gazumped several times on different houses in High Wycombe, each time I was priced out. It was very frustrating but I looked at my situation, my daughters were in school and happy, my wife and I were part of a community and moving South wasn’t really what we all wanted.
By chance, I saw a job advertised at Anchor Trust in Bradford and was successful in gaining the Development Manager post – an excellent promotion for me – with a company car and a good salary. Perhaps fate intervened with the properties in Buckinghamshire!
At this time, social housing for the elderly was fairly poor, small rooms in blocks with no social or communal areas. At Anchor Trust, they wanted to turn this situation on its head to improve these conditions. We went to Holland to research their concept of Extra Care Housing.
Using a similar model, we developed the first scheme in Swarcliffe in Leeds which was state-of-the-art with 82 self-contained apartments, 10 bungalows and the building had two wings with a circular central area that contained a common lounge, library, jacuzzi, TV lounge and a cafe which was open to the public at certain times. We supported independent living with the option of 24-hour care for those who needed it. This was replicated in other parts of Yorkshire, Newcastle and the rest of the UK. We even built one in Hull – Grove House which is on the corner of Beverley Road and Clough Road.
I stayed at Anchor Trust for 3 years before joining Yorkshire Housing Group (YH) as the Head of Development. This was a fantastic opportunity and I introduced Extra Care Housing to the Group. I was overseeing all types of housing schemes around the whole of Yorkshire which were very successful for YH, as we continued to raise the bar. In Kettlethorpe, Wakefield one Extra Care housing development overlooked rolling hills, it was a very high tech at the time with hot water and lighting powered by thermal photovoltaic solar panels.
Another was a similar but general needs housing at Primrose Hill In Huddersfield which won the most sustainable housing award (2007) in the country and was officially opened by the Duke of Edinburgh. I spent 9 years there from 2001-2010 working on city centre living, rural housing, general needs and outright housing for sale. In all, we built over 2,000 homes which is an amazing number when I think about it!
I found the key to success, as in any business was building excellent relationships, in this case with Local Authorities; listening to them, understanding their needs, researching and finding good sites, proposing the schemes and wowing the funders from Homes England, everyone was a winner!
My next ambition, however, was to become my own boss!
Thanks for reading, see me here next time…