James Pitt is exploring opportunities for affordable housing partnerships with local authorities. Credit: Muse

IN FOCUS | Muse’s James Pitt sets out vision

The UK’s preeminent regeneration developer has Yorkshire and the North East firmly in its sights through 2024 and beyond. Paul Unger sat down with James Pitt, regional managing director for North East and Yorkshire, to talk development milestones and Muse’s strategy for growth.

What are you excited to see happen this year?

Two key milestones stand out this year. We’ve got the place-changing regeneration of Rotherham town centre, with a scheme called Forge Island. This is a project where we’ve been partnering with the council for many years now, to reinvigorate and regenerate the town centre and bring people and families back.

Forge Island has prelet strongly. Credit: Muse

It’s sad to say, but it’s a reality that Rotherham has really struggled with the vitality of the town centre with the closure of shops and services. Forge Island reverses that trend, especially bringing families back into a safe, vibrant environment, with cinema, hotel, food and beverage units, which are all fully prelet.

Secondly, in the North East, in Stockton we’ll be completing on 113 affordable homes at a scheme called Northshore; mixed-tenure, affordable rent and shared-ownership. That is a true partnership scheme. The site’s actually owned by Homes England. But we always refer to Stockton Council as our partner, because we just work so closely with them and have done over the years. We’ve worked with Tees Valley Combined Authority to overcome funding challenges. Thirteen Housing Group is the registered provider forward-funding the scheme. That marks the end of a 15-year relationship in Stockton.

What’s in Muse’s strategy this year?

We’re currently working with Bradford Council, Homes England and West Yorkshire Combined Authority to repurpose Bradford town centre, at the former Oastler and Kirkgate markets, which in their heyday were huge economic drivers for the city. The city is now looking at what the new economic drivers will be. City Village will be predominantly a housing scheme, initially we would see registered providers working with us, the council and Homes England to allow people onto the housing ladder to rent affordable, safe, sustainable homes.

PwC will occupy around half of One City Park in Bradford, completed last year. Credit: Muse

There is significant demand for safe, sustainable homes at an affordable level and we’re having conversations with local authorities around Yorkshire and the North East about how we can assist delivery at scale and pace.

Mayoral authorities have a bigger role to play going forward. We’ve seen the role combined authorities are playing with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, and are starting to see that now with West Yorkshire Combined Authority, and the new  North East Combined Authority which will be established after May this year.

How would you summarise the Muse approach?

We are a trusted partner. We work collaboratively and transparently with local authorities and private enterprises to address their issues, unlock viability and help people and places thrive. Our work has consistently delivered for stakeholders; addressing our partners’ needs and those of local communities.

We believe that the towns and cities of the UK deserve the very best, and that high-quality, well-designed places and homes are not only more sustainable they are better for wellbeing and the economy.

To quote Leeds City Council, with whom we have worked: Having a safe, warm, and affordable home is crucial for everyone if they are to have positive life outcomes, in terms of health, education, employment and wellbeing. Delivery of new affordable homes plays a vital role in meeting the city ambition of tackling poverty and inequality and improving the quality of life for everyone who calls Leeds home.

Muse is already leading the way, delivering Passivhaus standard affordable homes in Salford alongside our partners Salix Homes and Salford City Council. These will ensure lower bills, and better health and wellbeing for residents, as well as lower long-term running costs for the registered provider, Salix homes.

Affordable homes at Northshore Stockton are due to complete this year. Credit: Muse

Muse are place-makers. We’re trusted by partners all over the country to deliver great places, and those relationships have consistently thrived and led to great results for the communities we work in. Projects like the great transformation of Newcastle Quayside over 25 years ago, still looking world class and incredible today, show that quality placemaking is in our DNA and we want to do more.

We are ambitious, not only for ourselves but for the future of Yorkshire and the North East, we want to play our part in making the great towns and cities of the North thrive.

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