West Berkshire Council and Sovereign lay foundations for new partnership

West Berkshire Council and Sovereign Housing Association have taken a major step towards creating a new formal partnership, which would help them build the homes the area needs more quickly.

West Berkshire Council agreed to create a Joint Venture (JV), which would be a separate entity, at a meeting of the council's Executive last night (14 June 2018). Sovereign’s Board will make their decision in July.

The Joint Venture is an innovative approach that will bring together the land, investment and skills of the two organisations to help towards achieving the council’s target to provide 1,000 new affordable homes in West Berkshire by 2020.

It had been proposed primarily because the council doesn’t have the means to singlehandedly achieve the housing target within the timeline and pooling resources with Sovereign, who share the same objective and purpose, will help both organisations achieve more they could do on their own.

Hilary Cole, West Berkshire's Executive Member for Planning said: “Sovereign is well placed to help us to deliver these homes and we are delighted to be working with such a relevant and capable partner. They are the district's largest social housing provider and we have already enjoyed a long relationship with them on that basis.

“However, the partnership is not just about affordable housing. This joint approach will give both us and Sovereign the flexibility that is key to meeting individual housing needs in West Berkshire by offering mixed tenure housing using a combination of council and Sovereign land acquired specifically for housing purposes. By taking this flexible but strategic approach, we are confident that many more housing needs can be met sooner."

Although, this would be Sovereign's first JV with a Local Authority, they have others with house builders including David Wilson Homes and Kier. The partnership with David Wilson is currently transforming Hutton Close, in Newbury, and has already delivered the regeneration at the nearby Kersey Crescent.

Roger Keeling, Sovereign’s Strategic Asset Management Director, said: “This is an exciting, innovative approach, bringing together the skills, land and investment needed to help build the homes we need in West Berkshire more quickly.

“While we still need approval from our Board, we share the same objectives as West Berkshire Council and it makes sense for us to work together more closely to achieve more than we could apart.”

While there’s been lots of work on the business case, the approval from council’s Executive marks an early step in the process. Sovereign’s Board will meet in mid-July to approve the business case from their side and agree to move to more detailed discussions, business planning and legal arrangements.

It is anticipated that the JV will be formally created in the autumn.