A focus on helping landowners make best use of their assets and delivering new, affordable-led housing has seen Catalyst Land Solutions Ltd (CLS) evolve, in less than six years, into one of the leading project management and land consultancy practices in the Midlands.
Founded in 2015 by Brian Harding Bsc FFB, the Northampton-based practice has experience of delivering on projects from multiple acre sites, including business parks, schools and mixed housing, through to exclusive developments that make efficient use of small parcels of land.
In taking a proactive approach in land-led development, CLS will often find an available site, carry out due diligence, bring contractors and a design team on board and present the whole scheme to an investor as a proposition.
More often than not, those investors are housing associations, a sector upon which CLS has chosen to focus its attention.
“Project management and land consultancy is our core business, and we will always be there when clients need our services, from inception, or taking over an existing project and seeing it through to the end, but we have also introduced this slightly different approach that we have found works well for some investors, particularly housing associations,” explained Brian.
“Housing associations are generally investing government money and it is important that they do that wisely. By presenting them with a potential scheme that we have identified, and that we have checked out to make sure there are no serious issues with developing the land, and where we have contractors and designers already some way down the line, we are reducing the risks to their investment.”
Such pre-prepared packages are something that have grown out of confidence in the experienced team at CLS, and how their knowledge and understanding of the sector can benefit others.
Ongoing projects include the delivery of 24 rented apartments in Central Milton Keynes, 34 new homes and apartments at Bradwell Common and 30 new two-bed apartments in Walnut Tree, Milton Keynes. These are all being delivered on behalf of their longstanding client Grand Union Housing
The practice operates UK-wide, providing a service that helps landowners make best use of their assets whilst focusing on the delivery of affordable-led housing developments. Including:
Land search and sale: By maintaining an extensive list of the land available for development, and combining that with good relationships with sellers, CLS can help investors find the right land at the right time. The team also works with local authorities to remain abreast of attitudes to planning applications, saving time and money throughout the process.
Project management: Land acquisition and disposal involves a number of parties – buyers, vendors, local authorities, local communities and business – each with their own aims and expectations. A land-led project management team plays a vital role in keeping the project moving forward in the right direction.
Development consultancy: CLS works with housing providers and developers that are working to fulfil the Government’s target of 300,000 new homes a year. The practice can assist with everything from finding the right piece of land backed up by thorough market research, through the planning stages to full-service project management as the development moves forward.
Brian Harding said:
“When I started the business, I wanted to put together a team that brought many years of experience across all the disciplines, and that’s what we have today. There’s unrivalled experience on the land development, quantity surveying and clerk of works side.
“That experience means our clients get the level of service they deserve when what we often see in this sector is a focus on maximising turnover and profits and less focus on the actual delivery of the products.
“Everyone wants value for money, but when we are working with housing associations, that’s even more important. Just because they’re investing government money, rather than a developer that is investing their own, doesn’t mean the bottom line is any less important. We need to give them sound advice about the best investments and what the return on that investment will look like.”
CLS is a corporate member of the Association for Project Management, a professional body that promotes the professional disciplines of project management and aims to deliver improved outcomes for the benefit of society.
“When the focus is not on the best outcome for the client, project management isn’t doing its job. Most of the time, we start at the very beginning of a project and support our client through the whole process, with an eye on their interests and achieving the best possible outcome.
“Quite often, though, we’ll get a call to step in to an ongoing project when things are not progressing well and, whatever the circumstances, we can honestly say that we will never make things worse, and we’ll more often than not be able to make things better.
“We’ll look at the situation and tell it like it is. We’ll be honest about what’s going wrong and try to work with the client to get things back on track.”