Not for profit and independent
Little Ships is a Community Interest Company (CIC). Our mission statement is to increase the quality and diversity of new homes for everyone.
We will buy under-utilised publicly owned land and build three types of housing on it
- Market housing (for shared ownership sale and rent at normal prices)
- Affordable housing (for people on the council housing waiting list)
- Tied housing (as payment to the land-owning public body for their staff to live in).
As a CIC we are not for profit and politically neutral. Little Ships will launch its initial pilot projects in Brighton.
Identifying unused space
We are focused on three categories of unused space for building new housing, all of which is on publicly owned land in our cities, towns and villages. None of it means building on our beautiful countryside or on our valuable public open spaces.
SMALL: 1-4 homes
Little Ships will discover. All towns and cities contain many small hidden opportunities where a good architect or designer could find room for a home or two. Exploiting these could bring forth lots of unusual, inspiring or simply very clever homes in the centre of cities, towns and villages, which is where lots of us want to live anyway.
MEDIUM: 5-19 homes
Little Ships will intensify. Typically, this involves utilising the space above underused land or buildings which cannot be completely re-developed for practical, cost or operational reasons. Professionals refer to this development opportunity as "air rights". It may require structural gymnastics, or simply the addition of an extra storey and any resulting disruption must be carefully managed.
LARGE: 20 homes or more
Little Ships will assemble. Bringing together adjacent pieces of publicly owned land to create a bigger site that can be fully developed to achieve the optimum number of new homes makes sense. It's about creating synergy between plots of land that are not being used as efficiently as they could be, and often can't be developed on their own.
Engaging with the owners and users
Little Ships will ask the public body who owns the land to sell us a freehold or leasehold interest in their site. We will pay the going rate in the form of Tied Housing, or with cash if they insist.
Sometimes the land-owner will want to build out the development opportunity themselves. If we think they can do it competently, compassionately and quickly (for example a local council housing team who simply hadn't seen the opportunity that we identify), we will step aside.
Sometimes, under used publicly owned land cannot be developed, for example the under used space we've spotted might form part of a bigger plan for a new hospital or school.
Who decides what gets built?
Once we have support from the land owners / users, there are three critical groups of people who will decide how these unused spaces move forward:
The Proposers: The UK has some of the best architectural and design businesses in the world. Every UK town and city has talented architects and designers who can find sites in all of our categories. Bringing the sites forward will also need engineers, surveyors, lawyers and other consultants. Little Ships will employ anyone we need to get the job done properly and safely.
The Planners: Architects and designers can get carried away sometimes, and the UK planning system can assess objectively whether a new project is the right solution. Is it too big? Does it overshadow anyone? Does it provide the right kind of homes? Impartial, trained planning professionals already provide this essential service. Little Ships will seek planning permissions for its proposed projects.
The Public: If members of the public get involved and make their support or opposition heard, then those in charge will take notice. With the help of both social and traditional media, an inclusive and representative debate can take place on these projects. The average size of one of our developments will be 10 homes (apartments); big enough to be viable, but not so big that it becomes difficult to know who your neighbours are or that it causes problems for the neighbourhood.
Increasing the quality and diversity of new homes
Little Ships will be there to lead or help the proposers, to listen to the planners and the public and to help maximise the number of good quality affordable, decent and secure homes for everyone without adversely affecting the communities that we will be building in.
If others wish to copy our model and help increase the quantity and quality of affordable, decent and secure homes, that can only be a good thing.
The Little Ships idea is not complicated. It is also not obvious and it is definitely not easy. But it is the right thing to do and eventually, we hope people will realise that the answer to the housing crisis has been all around us, all along.
Founder and Managing Director
Acquisition and Strategy. Hugh has run architecture practices and property development companies for the past 20 years (he is currently director of Add Architects and Rosefield Group).
Hugh brings together his background in construction, property and design to disrupt the failing status quo that has brought about the housing crisis. His architectural training and property development experience informs how Little Ships can maximise the social, aesthetic and financial benefit of their target sites.
Strategic Finance. The President and Chief Operating Officer for a major UK PLC on the FTSE 250 index, Tom is helping us choose the right investment strategy and financial partners.
Tom is a chartered accountant who has worked for Dairy Crest Group plc since 2005, his latest promotion following the acquisition of Dairy Crest by Saputo in April 2019. He is a member of the Board of Dairy UK and a member of Business in the Community’s Finance and Risk Committee. He has previously held senior finance positions in Logica plc and Thorn plc.
Housing Management. Currently Operations Manager for a public sector organisation leading bid writing and managing funding. Vanessa will advise us on which homes to build and how to run them.
Vanessa has a post-graduate diploma in Housing Studies and has worked for two leading Housing Associations in the South East. She has been involved in a number of high profile projects including the Rough Sleepers Initiative and the Private Sector Leasing Scheme for homeless families. She has managed housing in London, Kent and Brighton and so knows the challenges intimately.
Projects and Construction. A working partner at a leading project management and surveying practice, responsible for large infrastructure projects, Richard will help us organise and build our projects efficiently.
Richard has recently completed the enabling works for over 1,000 apartments to be built above an active post office in central London. He is a collaborative team player, an effective mediator and a dynamic negotiator when faced with complex and difficult construction problems.
Operations and Growth. A seasoned, international C-level executive for technology sector start-ups as well as established businesses, Brent is helping us develop and maintain a viable business model.
Brent has been the Financial Director for a $250m pan-European business unit, Head of Strategy and Planning through two IPOs (Equant 1998, Promethean World 2010), a PwC management consultant, and interim Cheif Operating Officer for a €20m run-rate EdTech company growing at 60% per annum.
Friends and Advisers
Little Ships only needs a small team of our own people for the first three target projects. We will grow carefully and pay all our staff, advisers and consultants fairly. We are being helped by friends and advisers who provide the specialist skills and experience necessary for Little Ships to grow.
Development Consultancy. An experienced and highly effective commercial property consultancy, specialising in the property investment and development sector, is ensuring we make the best returns and do not pay too much for 'our' sites. They will also help us run our first three target projects efficiently.
Human Resource. An experienced and dedicated Senior HR Director with a wide array of experience. She is advising us on finding the right talent and employing the right staff.
Law and Ethics. A Barrister (QC) specialising in public and human rights law, Recorder (fee paid Crown Court judge), and Visiting Professor of Law at a major UK university is counselling us when we need advice and guidance.
Marketing. Wise heads are making sure we get our message across loud and clear. A tiny two-woman company punching well above its weight in a cut-throat and competitive world.
Negotiation. A professional arbiter and expert negotiator with many years' experience dealing with commercial negotiations of all sizes. He is helping us secure the best deals.
Operational Finance. The ex-Financial Director for a national UK charity and an international NGO, is helping us choose the right investors and put the right financial management systems in place.
Planning Law. A Barrister (QC) specialising in planning work, judicial reviews and compulsory purchase orders will counsel us when we need help on very important or large projects.
Public Relations. An international PR guru and her brilliant colleagues will help us get our message across in the traditional media.
Social Media. An experienced social media consultant will help us get our message across on line. She knows how critically important this is to our success.