March’s Blog written by Rob Hughes, Development Manager at Queensberry
In May 2020, I was given some great news, we had just secured a new appointment with Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council to lead an exciting new town centre regeneration initiative. I would be acting as lead Development Manager on the scheme for Queensberry. The Transforming Nuneaton proposals had been talked about by the Council for over 5 years but for various reasons had not come to fruition. Now it’s a reality with full financial support, an approved business case, a clear development timeline and some pre-letting success. As Strategic Development Partner we’ve been instrumental in shaping a viable vision over the last 10 months. As part of our appointment we produced a revitalised masterplan that addresses the impact of Covid 19 and how our future urban centres need to embrace civic pride and local community. The programme was tight but the existing team were encouraged by our arrival and keen to progress while the Council was prepared to prioritise the project ……….only one problem………..
WE WERE IN THE MIDDLE OF LOCKDOWN!!!
No chance to get to site, no chance to shake hands with the design team charged with developing our concept and kick around ideas over a coffee. No chance to fully test and question the Project Manager to ensure they were able to drive the team forward and keep to programme, keep on track, keep on budget. But we did!
What I enjoy at Queensberry is that we are always up for these challenges. The first thing I did was adapt. For the first time in my professional career our kick off meeting took place by TEAMS and I focused on providing clarity on the project design concept, team structure, reporting, budget and timelines. This was really useful, very productive and the team were up and running and the project commenced. Nowhere near as daunting as I had expected.
Building a development appraisal was next, again not an easy task when not able to meet directly with agents and with market comparables all over the place. But, through a series of focused conversations, research on the market and good communication, forecasting was possible and a business case emerged that could be stress tested and give confidence to move forward.
The final, and perhaps, biggest hurdle though was how to tell the public about the new vision without the traditional presentations in the Town Hall. The answer, online events and a heavy social media push to ensure that residents and local community were aware of the project benefits and that consultation and engagement was still able to take place. This feedback is invaluable and is a key part of what we do and we learn and evolve each time we undertake it. The response to the consultation was fantastic, over 50,000 “hits” and two extremely well attended and positive online events generated superb project support.
So developing in lockdown, is not easy but certainly do-able. We’ve been able to make a start on the initial Phase 1 construction programme. We’ve fully engaged with community representatives and Council Members along the way and we are on track to deliver on time and in budget. If you are interested to find out more about the regeneration of Nuneaton information can be found here or on our website.