WHATIFGROUP – A year on !
A year on – What we have been up to?
We are incredibly proud that we have been working with some fantastic Clients and we imagine a kind of family tree emerging- a feeling of mutual trust. We are wholly focussed on quality not quantity. The projects and places we have been working on have, without exception been extremely rewarding. What is apparent is that the loss of vibrancy and pride in the centre of the UK’s towns is pronounced across the whole nation. We have seen some heroic responses by hard pressed local authorities and landlords.
It is essential to our brand vision, that our clients either have already or will buy into our philosophy of ESG and the UN Sustainable Development Goals, being the underlying principles of all we do. We wholly adhere to the fact that what we do, how we behave and the advice we give, can make a real difference, making the returns our clients need to continue investing, but also putting something back into the communities with whom we engage.
We have widely written about supporting Public Private Partnerships (PPP’s), with Kevin coming from a public sector career and Paul coming from the private sector. However, many of the extant PPP’s are weighted heavily in favour of the private sector, who remarkably still seem to think that is a competitive right. We envisage a landscape where the private sector helps the public sector to generate recurring income streams in order to fund community needs, and the public sector works with the private sector to help it meet its investment criteria, so it becomes a long term genuine partnership.
These partnerships must be built on fairness, equitable shared risk and reward, to create a more sustainable future. That will create true and ethical impact investment. In many of the under-served areas, PPP’s are essential to being able to generate the environment where development is sustainable. Combining the skills and resources of both the public and private sectors in a collaborative way is of paramount importance to optimise the outcomes for the people who live there.
Put simply, the public sector re-invests their share of profit in re-building economy, community, regeneration, essential services, health and well-being. The private sector earns its profits allowing it to re-invest and grow. These new style partnerships can operate under governance with a more multi stakeholder outcome approach, like our Place First Economics Framework. This should help the local economy to grow, thereby giving the private sector the steady long-term growth, many investors crave. As private companies voluntarily or by necessity move towards a more responsible ESG approach, we can see how our vision may yet happen – we continue to spread the word!
Peel Land & Property
We have been working with Peel to help develop a strategy for transformation of Quayside (formerly Lowry Outlet) away from pure Outlet, to something more in tune with its status as part of an emerging Town Centre and ensuring it fits at the heart of the growing MediaCity and Salford Quays.
Salford Council have launched a new Salford Quays 2030 Vision with people at its heart and it is essential that Quayside sits front and centre in this agenda. We are working on diversification of uses and income, bringing in more health and well-being and community related occupiers, making the most of an amazing south facing waterfront and creating something that connects better with all the amazing things happening inside MediaCity.
For WhatifGroup, the fact that Peel have been strongly integrating their emerging ESG agenda has been fantastic, allowing us to develop a strategy that has social impact and community at its heart. There are a lot of physical changes needed, but also a new way of doing things, building through community and a much stronger programme of true stakeholder engagement.
Phased implementation of the 4-5 year Strategy has now begun with a plan to spend c £6m over the next 12 months.
When Stephen Black asked us to provide some assistance, we did not appreciate the exciting journey we were about to embark on. With a dynamic team and genuine entrepreneurial approach, we have been working closely with the Kinetic team on their property ambitions.
Gateshead Old Town Hall – we have been working to develop proposals for both the renovation of the two Listed Buildings and new build at this key site in the heart of Tyneside. This development can positively influence the whole perception of Gateshead and bring much needed pride to a challenged Centre. An integrated, sustainable development building on the work the Council have already undertaken and bringing back into use two significant heritage assets.
Middlesbrough Heritage Quarter – the Kinetic team were already undertaking a stunning conversion of Commerce House as a business centre. This has led to a wider and more ambitious vision for this fantastic Conservation area and promises to bring some real quality to the Centre of Middlesbrough, building on the massive rail investment, and the new direct London trains.
We have been helping develop a vision for the area, formulating strategy and identifying end occupiers. We have been looking at appropriate interventions, including further acquisitions, working with the Council and other stakeholders. This development aims to bring much needed investment and energy to help Middlesbrough on its way to meeting its aspirations.
German Kraft Beer – working with Kinetic we have teamed up with German Kraft Beer to look at developing a portfolio of sites. German Kraft operate three sites in London at present and we are seeking opportunities for further sites in other dynamic places. The business has a strong approach to sustainability.
We also worked with Kinetic for several months on assisting them developing fund raising associated with GB Bank.
We have been appointed by GB Bank, who received their Bank of England licence in 2021, to assist in developing approaches to establishing structural relationships with the public sector on developing collaborative approaches to local investment through PPP’s. We have been instrumental in defining how this investment can fit with both the Banks’ and the local authorities responsibilities to the SDG’s.
Church of England
Working with our associates, Geraldine Kay and Keith Tallentire we have been formally commissioned to provide support and develop the process of creating a new national Housing Association for the Church of England.
The Archbishop of Canterbury issued his ‘Coming Home’ report in 2021, setting out how the Church could be at the forefront in helping address some of England’s housing challenges. The establishment of a national housing association is planned, which would be initially based within the Diocese of Gloucester. The engagement is a great honour for our business, and we have been providing voluntary support to the Archbishop’s Executive over the past year. The work will be on-going through 2022.
We have been part of a team that put together a strategic tender submission for a major urban regeneration scheme in Newcastle. We have also been working with BCEGI on the identification of a number of other development opportunities across the UK. BCEGI are an international developer, and its projects are strategic in ambition.
We were asked by Capita Group to help them in developing a new town centre strategy in the Northeast. This was to assist the local authority with their ‘Levelling Up’ bid. We were able to assist in developing deliverable ideas within retail & leisure, culture and housing strategy.
We pride ourselves on seeing the big picture (or looking outside the red line as we often say) in order to find the right strategy, something that can engage the community and not just sit in a drawer. It’s not about pretty pictures, it’s about a “bottom up“ approach for the people by the people. Looking at short term wins with a bigger achievable objective. Every place and community is unique – there is no one size fits all, so every strategy has to be different.
Major Housing Development Site
We are working with a client who owns a major site for which he is seeking to get allocated within the council’s Local Plan. As part of this we have been seeking to identify a developer who can drive the scheme forward.
Voluntary commitments to support the community
We decided at the outset that we wanted to support groups and organisations to meet their aims where they align with our own but where we would contribute our time without charge.
Education – we have contributed to undergraduate education courses at both:
University College London – who were looking at inner regeneration in Teesside; and,
London School of Economics – who were looking at Industrial Decline and Revitalisation in the north.
We are passionate that with our collective 70 years’ experience we can contribute to the next generation of surveyors and planners.
Community – We helped support the development of both a funding application and plans for a new community centre in the North East. We are also intending to help with the long-term business planning to ensure that the centre has a sound business planning basis to succeed. We have also been helping a community group who are seeking to prevent a major waste incinerator in their area. We have been invited to be the lead advocate at a forthcoming public inquiry.
Significant food and beverage operator
We have been helping to develop an expansion strategy for a major food and beverage operator -The Hold. The Hold are the tonic for many town centres and it was this energy that attracted us to work with them and help develop not only their portfolio, but bring out their sustainable credentials and give them a desire to continue to improve.
We are extremely excited by the opportunity this presents.
We have been approached by a number of other parties and are discussing if and how we can help with their business strategies.
If you are interested in talking to or working with us please contact [email protected]; [email protected]
Image Courtesy of Jeremy Bishop (Unsplash)