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Willmott Dixon launches new private rented sector company

Wilmott Dixon has launched a new company to provide private rented accommodation for young professionals.

The company, be:here, has reached an agreement with M&G Investments’ secured property income fund for its first project in East London.

233 apartments in a private and affordable mix will be built under the programme, adjacent to the East India Dock DLR station.

The apartments will be owned by M&G and managed by the be:here brand as part of the Aberfeldy estate regeneration in Tower Hamlets, where Willmott Dixon is currently working with landowner Poplar HARCA.

That regeneration scheme will see nearly 1,200 homes developed over the coming decade.

Planning permission has already been obtained, so construction of the homes will start immediately and renters will begin to move in during 2015.

The new company is also in the process of acquiring further sites across London, and at central locations in Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol and Leeds.

Each of these is capable of accommodating between 100 and 400 units.

Willmott Dixon Regen divisional chief executive Andrew Telfer said that be:here would create homes for private rent on “an ambitious scale” and would work with institutions that recognise PRS’s “enormous potential to provide long-term revenue to their portfolios and our role in making that happen”.

The move comes after Construction News reported Willmott Dixon was looking to expand its presence in the north and midlands housing markets, on the back of recent regional framework wins.

A new operations director, Stuart Belfield, and a new sales and marketing manager, Richard Sterling, have been recruited from Mansell to help drive growth in the area.

The firm has won several large schemes in the region in the past 12 months, including the £23m programme to deliver 197 new retirement homes in Derbyshire for Chevin Housing Association.

Most of Willmott’s 1,500 annual new homes are built in the South-east, but the firm is hoping its place on a number of frameworks, including the £4bn Homes and Communities Agency Delivery Partner Panel 2 and the £1.25bn Scape framework – will help it expand into the regions.

The firm also has construction offices in Oldham, Leeds and Newcastle delivering a turnover of around £150m annually.

Willmott Dixon has secured almost £200m in housing work so far this year.

The move to expand in the North follows recent contract wins in the South-east, which included starting work on the last stage of the Church End estate regeneration in Neasden, the ten-year Aberfeldy Village regeneration in Tower Hamlets, the Brentford Lock West regeneration next to Grand Union Canal, new care home village in Ascot and the next phase of Greenwich Millennium Village.

Charlie Scherer, chief operating officer at Willmott Dixon’s housing business said: “Our position on frameworks like the HCA’s Delivery Partner Panel 2 and existing office network in the North gives us real confidence we can grow significantly over the next few years. Stuart and Richard will be key players in how we shape that proposition and help clients deliver their plans to meet the demand for quality, affordable homes.”

Mr Belfield said: “When Willmott Dixon outlined its ambitious growth plans for the North, the opportunity to help shape this was too good to miss. Willmott Dixon has a compelling market proposition as one of the country’s largest housing contractors; we’re looking forward to delivering this potential in the North.”

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