About Little Ships

CIC people

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

  1. Market housing (for shared ownership sale and rent at normal prices)
  2. Affordable housing (for people on the council housing waiting list)
  3. 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 it's initial pilot projects in Brighton.

Identifying unused space

We are focused on three categories of unused space for building new housing upon, 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.


Category 1: Site Discovery

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 bizarre, fantastic or simply very clever homes in the centre of cities, towns and villages, which is where lots of us want to live anyway.


Category 2: Site Intensification

Little Ships will intensify. This will typically involve the space above underused land or buildings which cannot be completely re-developed for practical, cost or operational reasons. Professionals call this "air rights". It may require structural gymnastics, or simply the addition of an extra storey. There will often be some disruption which must be carefully managed.


Category 3: Site Assembly

Little Ships will assemble. This is bringing together adjacent pieces of publicly owned land to make a bigger site that can be fully developed to get the optimum number of new homes on a combined site. 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.

decision time

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 and 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 objectively assesses 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 it's proposed projects.

The Public: If the public get involved and makes 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 by everyone can take place on these projects.


Building affordable, decent and secure homes

Little Ships will be there to lead or help the proposers, and to listen to the planners and the public to help maximise the number of good quality affordable, decent and secure homes 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...


Little Ships only needs a small team of our own people for the first three target projects. We will grow carefully and pay our all our staff, advisers and consultants fairly. The founder of Little Ships is Hugh Dennis who is being advised by friends, consultants and advisers who provide specialist skills and experience for Little Ships to grow.

Strategic Finance. The Group Financial Controller for a major UK PLC on the FTSE 250 index is helping us choose the right investment strategy and financial partners.

Commerce. An international trouble-shooting Financial Director and Chief Operating Officer for technology sector start-ups as well as established businesses, is helping us develop and maintain a viable business model.

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.

Project Management. A working partner at a leading project management and surveying practice, responsible for large infrastructure redevelopment projects on commercially active sites in the capital, will will help us organize our projects efficiently.

Construction. Little Ships is currently in talks with the Head of Construction responsible for the management and implementation of on-site construction programmes at a major UK property development PLC. This person will help us build our projects efficiently.

Negotiation. A professional arbiter and expert negotiator with many years experience dealing with commercial negotiations of all sizes is helping us secure the best deals.

Law. A Barrister (QC) specialising in public and human rights law, Recorder (fee paid Crown Court judge), Visiting Professor of Law at a major UK university is counselling us when we need advice and guidance.