Eleanor Deeley, Deputy Managing Director of the Deeley Group, on how the pandemic has impacted diversity in the sector.
As the UK begins to come back to the workplace, there is masses of talk around the “new normal” and what that will look like.
Will it mean more time working from home? Will more of us cycle to work? Will real face-to-face meetings be a thing of the past?
It is, on many of the major issues, too early to say. However, I think the “new normal” in many professions will look more male.
In fact, I would go as far as to say that gender equality in the workplace may well take a step back several decades.
This is a bold statement for me, as I am an optimist, someone who has avoided women only organisations and believes that we all stand equal based on our results, but Covid-19 has changed my perspective.
We have surveyed all our staff – the majority of which are male – around the return to work and childcare, and asked if there is any reason that while the schools are not back that staff cannot return to work. The overwhelming response was no.
While that is great for us as a company, I would suggest that the response was driven by the fact that people’s female partners and wives are predominantly the ones who take responsibility for childcare.
As much as it should not be the case, I suspect that in a large majority of cases, the woman in a relationship has more responsibility for childcare, cooking and housework but also holds down a job.
That means that over the months of lockdown when childcare has not been easy to come by, women have had to make more of a compromise. That should not be the case, but it is and that cannot be right.
It is just one example of how Covid has magnified differences – differences between nations, differences between genders, differences between education systems, and it has only acted to highlight how much more there is to do to really bring equality in all aspects of life.
I have worked in property for 20 years now and the industry has definitely changed in terms of equality.
There is certainly a lot less alcohol than there used to be and that has made it much easier for women as a great deal of business was done in the bar after work or even on the golf course – and although I am rather fond of a round of sambucas I could never fit in a round of golf with raising two children!
Most of the changes which have been brought about, have come with the changing times and differing attitudes, but actually the recession played a part in that, as the extra-curricular activities were vastly reduced purely by financial necessity and life moved into coffee shops rather than bars.
Clients have also driven and shaped that change. As you get more investment, funds move further into property to increase their returns, it becomes more analytical and factual and less based on connections, and has meant it is more about what you know than who you know.
But, of course, there is so much more to do. I recently spoke at a secondary school in Coventry about the careers that are available in the property industry, but I still think that, as a sector, we are behind the likes of accountancy and law when it comes to attracting a wide range of young people into the industry.
There is certainly a great awareness in the industry of the need for more diversity, and that is not just in terms of gender or ethnicity, but also socio-economically. Take work experience – a great deal of placements are set up through contacts, and you could have real potential but without that network, it may not get the chance to be realised.
Not only is that morally wrong, it also means the industry is missing out on great talent. Some of the leading players have programmes which are addressing that, but lack of accessibility is a real issue.
Of course, everyone in business is focused around trying to keep companies going and people employed but it would be a tragedy if many of the advances in diversity are yet another victim of this wretched virus.
The much anticipated new Civic Centre and Library for Whitnash moved a stage closer this week with a unanimous agreement by the Town Council to sign a contract with Deeley Construction, which will make way for work on the new building to commence soon.
The project, which is being led by Whitnash Town Council in partnership with Warwick District Council and Warwickshire County Council, will see the creation of a vibrant new hub to replace the town’s existing community hall bringing a number of local services together. The new building will include a multi-use sports hall, library, community café, meeting room and offices for the Town Council.
Whitnash’s new £2million Civic Centre is being funded by grants from Warwick District Council, Warwickshire County Council, Sport England and a public works loan taken by the Town Council. An additional £20k for external elements such as landscaping, parking, electric vehicle charging points and bike racks was raised through a successful local Crowdfunding campaign.
District and Town Councillor for Whitnash, Tony Heath commented;
“A Civic Centre and Library on Acre Close has been a priority for our local community since it was identified by public consultation in our Neighbourhood Plan. I am therefore very pleased that thanks to the support from Warwick District Council, Warwickshire County Council and the efforts of local businesses and residents, we will soon have this vital multi-functional facility for the benefit of everyone in our town.”
The Leader of Warwick District Council, Cllr Andrew Day commented;
“A community hub is an essential part of every town, especially one as vibrant as Whitnash. This welcome new facility not only brings benefits to local residents, but provides jobs at a critical time in our recovery plan for Warwick District. Working in partnership with Whitnash Town Council we’re delighted to play our part in bringing this important and ambitious scheme to life.”
Steve Jones, Estimating Director at Deeley Construction, commented:
“As a trusted local contractor, we have worked closely with Whitnash Town Council and their partners to bring this scheme forward. For more than 80 years we delivered developments and engaged with community groups in Warwick District and will continue to do so to ensure the new civic centre and library respond to the needs of local people. We have been working on this scheme throughout lockdown and are looking forward to getting started on site in the near future.”
Councillor Kam Kaur, Warwickshire County Council’s Portfolio Holder for Customer & Transformation, commented;
“We have worked closely with our Town and District Council partners to fund and develop this project, so it is wonderful to hear that the new Civic Centre, including a new Library for Whitnash, is now one step closer.
“We’re delighted that our library service will be a key part of what will become a vibrant hub of activity for the community, bringing together a number of local services in a central location in Whitnash.”
A development of 55 new-build homes in Asfordby has been given the green light by Melton Borough Council.
Deeley Homes purchased the site three-miles west of Melton Mowbray last year and will be working in partnership with social housing and care organisation emh group to deliver the development.
The 6.15 acre site, which will be accessed by Saxelby Road, will be a split of shared ownership and market sale homes, and also include 10 affordable rent properties.
Detailed planning permission has now been given after the site secured outline planning permission in May 2018.
More than two thirds of the housing will now be affordable, which led the council to remove the requirement to contribute £25,000 to affordable homes elsewhere in the area.
The developers will be making contributions to improve highway safety outside the nearby primary school, upgrade local bus stops, provide bus passes and travel packs to new residents and also contribute to libraries and secondary education provision in the area.
Work is set to start on site in the Autumn, and is expected to be completed early in 2022
Eleanor Deeley, Deputy Managing Director of the Deeley Group, said: “We’re excited to be bringing this development to market, whilst also providing key affordable housing for local people in Asfordby and surrounding areas.
“We will be working in partnership with emh group on both the market sale and affordable housing properties – ensuring the development responds to the needs of the area.
“The location of the development brings many advantages including excellent travel links to nearby towns and strong school options for residents.
“We will be making improvements to infrastructure around the development and are confident the scheme will be of great benefit to the area.”
Chris Jones, Executive Director of Development at emh group, said: “As a strategic partner of Homes England, the government housebuilding agency, we aim to deliver 600 new affordable homes across the East Midlands every year.
“I am delighted that through a strong partnership with Deeley Homes and Melton Borough Council we are contributing to meeting the housing needs and aspirations of people in the area with new homes for shared ownership and affordable rent.”
We have had a few planning consents emerging from the system in the last few weeks – all of which have been months in the making – covering a wide range of projects and geographies, and all are schemes that will help our pipeline of work as we navigate through these strange times.
Many planning committees are convening through video calls at the moment and we are beginning to see subtle changes, within the confines of established policy, which we believe are a result of the current crisis.
An example is our proposed scheme in Ledbury which will feature a community medical centre, locally-run children’s day nursery and a Lidl food store.
We are currently going through consultation and as part of that process we appeared at a Town Council meeting on Zoom. We felt there was far greater consideration than there would have been pre Covid-19 around the provision of local facilities alongside housing, and how developments and decisions could help limit travel times and help foster the community.
That has always been high up on the agenda of any Town or Parish Council, but we have noticed across different areas that there is a stronger emphasis than ever on providing for local people to ensure that they can get what they want and need within their own communities.
I think the current crisis has made authorities realise that you can’t just make one place busier and people can travel to, for example, the nearest retail development. The way we shop and way we live into the future is going to be considerably different.
We have found that people have taken on board that life has changed and that is not going to be for weeks, it is not going to be for months, we could be talking for the next few years.
It has been recognised that just because we have something now, which has worked up until this point, it is not necessarily going to be suitable or sustainable going into the future.
I think this will make Town and Parish Councils not only more relevant but also more powerful. There is a view – rightly or wrongly – that some councils do not want development whatever it is, or wherever it is but that approach will not work in the future.
Local councils know their communities better than anyone else and that level of knowledge is vital. We had a very good example last year in our dealings with Pillerton Priors Parish Council, where the members were very specific about the sort and variety of housing they felt would suit the community, and we adjusted our plans for The Meadows accordingly.
Obviously, there are agreed village plans which take precedence, but I think there is an acceptance that there is not enough affordable housing and it is not of the age or quality that is needed.
The current crisis has emphasised the importance of local family networks which can lend support when it is needed. It has as highlighted how having family close is a really great benefit for all and for a variety of reasons, and that living in the area you grew up in and having connections in your community can be very useful for everyone as it reduces the pressure on local service provision.
On a practical level, the session in Ledbury went very well and worked effectively. We have also had planning committees on Zoom, which are then broadcast through YouTube, and again that has worked without any issues.
There are, in fact, benefits in that I think it stops people talking too much and therefore makes the meetings more efficient!
Everyone is talking about the “new normal” and certainly in planning terms, we are seeing it develop with impacts in our industry, which, I believe, will only grow and hopefully bring increased benefits to the local communities in which we live and work.
A new Costa Coffee drive-thru restaurant is being created on a site in Wolverhampton – and will be central to perking up a well-loved community hub.
Deeley Properties Wolverhampton Ltd, a division of the Deeley Group, in partnership with Ziran Land Ltd, has won planning consent to create the new drive-thru on the Birmingham New Road and Spring Road.
The development will be built on land owned by the Forty Four Club, which will be investing the sale proceeds back into the club and its facilities including its bar and function room, as well as snooker, crown green bowls, darts and a shooting range.
The club was founded in 1944, by some prominent Wolverhampton business leaders and now has around 240 members. The permission will also see money donated to local outdoor green spaces.
The development will create five full time and 12 part time jobs, and work is expected to begin on the new unit in spring 2021 with opening in autumn 2021.
Andrew Brazier, of Deeley Properties, said: “This new unit will be a welcome addition to the local area and is situated on one of the main routes between Wolverhampton and Birmingham and will prove very popular both with people using the road network, but also locals.
“The land is not used at present but we have been able to realise considerable value for the Forty Four Club to help it improve what is a well-loved facility used by generations of people from the local community.
“We work across the retail sector throughout the UK, creating new units for a range of end-users. To have brought this forward from concept, through planning and delivery, for the benefit of all involved, is really pleasing.
Pictured: Andrew Brazier
The site of a former school in Wyken, Coventry is set to be re-developed as affordable housing after planning permission was granted for 39 homes.
The site was formerly the home of Dartmouth School and was then a temporary home for The Seva School up until September 2015.
Since Seva School moved to its new home in Walsgrave, it has been a redundant brownfield site for almost five years.
Planning permission has now been granted for 23 affordable rented and 16 shared ownership properties to be built on Tiverton Road, by Coventry-based family firm Deeley Group for leading housing provider Stonewater.
The site was originally purchased from Coventry City Council and upon completion will feature 39 brand-new homes comprising a mix of two, three and four-bedroom houses.
Stonewater and Deeley Group previously worked together on the successful development of another affordable development at Feather Lane in Nuneaton, which completed earlier this year.
The Deeley Group has a proud history of projects in the area with founder George Deeley building nearby St John Fisher school in the 1950s – who was also joined by a young Peter Deeley, now managing director, who drove a dumper on the site.
Peter went on to help build St John Fisher Church in the 1970s, and current Deeley Construction managing director Martin Gallagher was on-site to build the parish hall in the 1990s.
Now Eleanor Deeley, as part of Deeley Affordable Living, has secured the planning for the delivery of this new housing for the community.
Peter Deeley, Managing Director of the Deeley Group, said: “There is a genuine need for more housing of this type in Coventry and we are pleased to be able to deliver this development alongside our partners.
“We have a strong relationship with Stonewater and we are looking forward to working closely with them again, after the great success of our project in Nuneaton.
“With planning now approved, work will be starting on site in the coming months.
“This scheme will provide vital affordable housing for the community in Wyken and surrounding areas and makes good use of what would otherwise be a redundant brownfield site.
“Deeley Group has a history of development in the area, building St John Fisher Catholic Primary school in the 1950s and St John Fisher church and hall in the 1970s. Many years ago I drove machinery on the nearby site as I began my career in construction.
“We have great expertise in delivering developments of this type for local people, and it is the latest in a string of affordable housing schemes we have worked on in Coventry, Warwickshire and further afield.”
Matt Crucefix, Director of Development (West) at Stonewater, said: “We’re delighted to be working with the Deeley Group on another regenerative project so that we can make better use of this brownfield site.
“Trying to manage the spread of Covid-19 over the last few months has shone a light on just how important it is that everyone has a place to call home and has really amplified the importance of our work as a social housing provider.
“We’re looking forward for work to get underway at Tiverton Road, so we can support the local community and bring more much-needed affordable homes to Wyken.”
Deeley Group has agreed the lease of a unit in Leamington to an engineering firm which is planning to become a world leader in the development and manufacture of PPE.
Tecman Advanced Material Engineers have leased the unit at Ramsey Road, Leamington, formerly the home of Bellagio Stone.
It will house its production facility dedicated to the manufacture of face and eye protection.
The new premises include 10,000 sq ft of storage, a new automation system to streamline production, and state-of-the-art machinery to boost manufacturing capacity.
The new production line will enable to firm to produce over a million protective visors per week, and support the company’s long-term vision of becoming a global industry leader.
The firm says the site has already created 30 new jobs at the company and will create a further 10 jobs in the future.
Peter Deeley, Managing Director of the Deeley Group, said: “Tecman has been doing incredible work during the Covid-19 pandemic to manufacture PPE and we’re pleased this new facility will allow the firm to further expand operation.
“The unit is ideally positioned on the outskirts of Leamington near a collection of businesses that form a thriving business community.
“The business will be providing vital new jobs to local people, which is even more important now as the area recovers from the impact of Covid-19.
“The deal was completed quickly and we look forward to working in partnership with Tecman more in the future.”
Kevin Porter, technical director at Tecman, added: “Developing and manufacturing an effective product to support frontline workers has already led to the creation of 30 new jobs at Tecman.
“Our expansion into new premises creates a need to expand our team further, and we’re delighted to be able to offer jobs within the West Midlands during a time when many are unable to work.”
A Midlands-based construction company has started work on a multi-million retail unit near Newcastle-under-Lyme in Staffordshire.
Deeley Construction, which is headquartered in Coventry, has begun work on the 22,000 sq ft unit at Wolstanton Retail Park, which will be home to nationally renowned home furnishing retailer Dunelm Mill.
The unit, which is expected to be completed later this year It is being built between the existing Matalan and Marks & Spencer stores at the retail park, and when Dunelm Mill opens its doors it is expected to create up to 50 jobs for local people.
The unit will be purpose-built for Dunelm Mill and feature a café, alongside the typical homeware and home furnishing goods sold by the retaile which has 169 stores across the UK.
Work is being carried out on site during the Covid-19 pandemic, with workers adhering to strict social distancing guidelines.
Deeley Construction’s work will also include improvement of the foundations of the Matalan unit, whilst still maintaining a fire safety route from Marks & Spencer.
Martin Gallagher, managing director of Deeley Construction, said: “Our team are now set-up and working on site to deliver this retail project, which is part of the continued development of Wolstanton Retail Park.
“The retail park is still busy, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, and our team will be operating social distancing measures, while providing as little disruption as possible the general public.
“Deeley Construction has great experience with working in live retail environments and delivering purpose-built units.
“The new Dunelm Mill store will provide a boost to the local economy and provide new jobs for people in the area and we’re delighted to be working on this project.”