As a community construction charity, PHASES needs to keep abreast of any changes in policy which might impact our affordable housing projects. As a training organisation, we’re conscious that our courses need to reflect industry needs, so that our trainees have reelvant skills. As a social enterprise, we’re busy finding ways to share best practice and to be more effective. Here’s what we’ve been doing lately to keep up to date in the fast-paced construction sector.
We met with the planners in Lewisham as part of a ‘pre-application’ process to discuss our plans for a new build project on Brockley Road (See June 2016). The planners were helpful and have provided pointers in the preparation of our full planning application. Meanwhile, negotiations have continued with Network Rail about the site and we have had considerable help in this from Structural Engineers Tim Barnard & Associates. A great deal of information has also been collated in a feasibility report. We will hope to go to full planning before the end of the year.
This is a network of local authorities, across the country, which promotes cooperative principles and innovation in local government. The network has established a ‘Housing Commission’ to look at how cooperative and community based organisations might provide solutions to the housing crisis. The Commission is being led by the London Borough of Croydon. This evidence-gathering session in Croydon was attended by many officers from different London boroughs, as well as organisations promoting community housing solutions in London and beyond. PHASES were invited as one of a small number of organisations actually generating community housing in London. The network will report in September 2017 but in the meantime Croydon are hosting a good practice website and blog which will feature PHASES, amongst other organisations.
With the agreement of the Trustees, PHASES has made a strategic decision to consider a new build project. An opportunity presents itself on a site which is vacant next to the project at 340 Brockley Road which we completed during 2015. We have now obtained architect’s sketches for up to six flats on the site. As the site is next to a railway embankment, we have also opened discussions with Network Rail.
With no imminent empty property projects ahead and PHASES’ plans for a first new build project still in the early stages, we have announced a plan to carry out a series of maintenance works at a number of our properties. This will initially take place at six of our properties during the year and will provide trainees with experience in electrical maintenance, carpentry, plastering and painting and decorating.
We held an ‘awards’ ceremony in Camberwell for some of the 18 trainees who had passed through our workshop training phase during the year. All of these trainees had successfully completed our multi-skills course at the Rotherhithe workshop. They included ex-services personnel, refugees and trainees who had come through drug and alcohol problems. Seven of these trainees had gained additional on-site work experience on our empty property renovation projects.
Works were completed in early summer on one of our biggest projects under the Empty Homes Community Grants Programme – 340 Brockley Road. This property had been empty for over 20 years and consists of a bedsit, a one-bed flat and a two-bed flat over three floors. Initial work involved removal of asbestos, the taking down of a chimney and soundproofing. Internal walls were then reconfigured and new partitions created. All windows were removed and fitted with new double-glazed units and the property was then fully fitted-out. This project created a wealth of training opportunities in the different construction skills areas and over the 12 month period six different trainees were involved and two paid workers who were former trainees. All three flats are now occupied as affordable rented accommodation.
We have completed on the purchase of a second property in London under the Empty Homes Community Grants Fund. This was on another 4 bedroom property in Becton, East London, which had been empty for over a year. Additional finance for this purchase was provided by our bank – Unity Trust. Refurbishment works have also now been completed by our team on this property, ready for letting.
PHASES has completed the purchase of its first property in London. This is a 4-bed house in Beckton, East London. This was partly financed by grant funding from the Empty Homes Community Grants Programme and partly by borrowing from The Big Issue Invest, a social enterprise lender which is an offshoot of the Big Issue magazine.