Brian Norton, executive chairman of new development company Cleanslate, on forging links with the next generation of architects
Why is now a good time to set up a new development company?
The economic outlook is still uncertain but there appear to be signs of growth in the South East, where we focus. Funding constraints also appear to be easing. Given recent devaluation, house price drops and pent-up demand, we believe prices should remain stable in the short term and start modestly growing in the medium term, offering a good platform for our business.
Where do you see the most growth over the coming decade?
We expect residential in London and the South East to be a key driver over the next five years but we would then expect more widespread growth across the country. Institutional investment in large-scale apartment blocks is likely, given the demand, particularly in London. We are also watching for industrial development opportunities and assessing the renewables market.
You have to start somewhere and we’re keen to give young teams a chance to succeed
What schemes do you currently have planned?
A diverse range of projects. We have recently advertised a design competition in the AJ for the Fort Albert project, which offers a one-off chance for some inspiring architecture at the gateway to the Solent. We have also invested in an exciting new venture, Mermaid Maternity Services, which will provide a five star retreat and spa for expectant and recent mothers. We are working with architect Charles Leon Associates and interior designer on a high-quality fit-out in the King’s Road for the new business. We are also planning a low-density mixed housing project on a rarely available site in the countryside and are looking at several large-scale apartment blocks that would be suitable for institutional investment.
What do you want from your architects?
We want architects with design flair who work well in a team. We don’t aim to have a single ‘Cleanslate’ look but would rather be known for high-quality designs appropriate to their circumstances. As a new company ourselves, we understand you have to start somewhere and we are keen to give young teams a chance to succeed.
How do you plan to find your architects?
My partners and I have been working in property for over 30 years and have built up a network of contacts that we draw on. But we are always keen to find new talent that will suit specific projects. We follow annual awards and will contact architects directly for specific projects or we may undertake open design competitions where appropriate. We would also encourage your readers to contact us if they are interested in working with us.