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Lovell proactively targeting public sector land

Lovell is mapping public land data as it hunts for new development opportunities, its managing director has revealed.

Managing director of Morgan Sindall’s housing partnerships business Jonathan Goring told CN that the firm expected to identify opportunities for public sector landowners within three months.

Mr Goring, who led Capita’s bid to be the Defence Infrastructure Organisation’s strategic partner before leaving the outsourcing giant in 2014, highlighted the DIO and the NHS as two estate owners sitting on land that could be developed, but said the private sector needed to identify opportunities.

Full interview: ‘We’ve forgotten how to trade’

Jonathan Goring on the future of public-private partnerships, his relationship with Morgan Sindall CEO John Morgan and a whirlwind two years.

He said Lovell could work in partnership with housing associations to identify new development opportunities, and that it was on the lookout for schemes to build “post-2019”.

Mr Goring told CN: “The industry struggles because of the way we compete for too low margins and the way companies are structured in a hierarchical way, it slows stuff down. 

“We haven’t tackled the disruptive bit, as an industry. The government has, for a long time, tried to accelerate the housing market and investment in government property by effectively looking at redundant stock and selling it.

“I think there is now space for the private sector to look at the data, produce a value heatmap… and then we tell them where the opportunities are.”

In its most recent financial results - for the half-year to 30 June 2016 - Lovell posted revenue of £183m – up 7 per cent year-on-year.

Its adjusted operating profit was up 21 per cent at £4.6m. The company built more than 2,000 new build homes in 2016.

Growth has been primarily based on mixed-tenure regeneration schemes, which accounted for £77m of revenue, while Lovell’s contracting declined to £106m at the half-year, down from £127m.

Mr Goring said Lovell wanted to proactively convince public sector clients to part with land, which traditionally they may have wanted to hold onto “just in case”.

“No one is heatmapping this at the moment. The private sector is waiting for the tender, waiting for the council to say, ‘This is our available portfolio for partnering or disposal,’ rather than being proactive.

“I think we’ve forgotten how to trade. We get wrapped up in procurement too often. It would be nice to say without expectation that we could go to our friends in, for example, [housing associations] Clarion or Hyde and say, ‘This is where we see the value, I suggest you go and speak to the DIO’.”

He told CN this could in turn lead to opportunities from prospective housing association partners further down the line.

More from Jonathan Goring

Read CN’s full interview with Lovell’s MD, plus acting editor Tom Fitzpatrick’s leader on public-private partnerships helping to overcome planning frustrations.

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