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Jerome Geoghegan: 'We house a family in London every 15 minutes'

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Jerome Geoghegan, group director of development and sales, London & Quadrant Housing Trust (L&Q) talks about durable design and not making assumptions about your clients

What kind of schemes are you currently working on?
L&Q is a housing association and residential developer. We build new homes to meet a range of needs, and our aim is to offer people choice, flexibility and quality in the housing marketplace. We house a family in London every 15 minutes of each working day and have a development pipeline of 10,000 homes over the next five years.  Our current projects portfolio ranges from mixed-tenure schemes of several hundred units to individual family houses.

Which has been your most contentious scheme and how did you address the issues?
In terms of media and public attention it has probably been our proposals for the Walthamstow Stadium Site, in East London.
We’ve worked very closely with Conran and Partners and have made significant changes to our original plans addressing planning, heritage and environmental issues raised by statutory stakeholders and the local community. The plans offer a very high quality mixed-used development with much needed homes, leisure and sporting facilities. We now await the decision from the Mayor of London who will be reviewing the proposals.

Conran and Partners Walthamstow housing scheme

Conran and Partners Walthamstow housing scheme

What are you looking for predominantly in a design team?
We look for a team that can understand the needs of the different customers that we provide housing for and deliver excellent design against approved budgets and timescales.

Great durable design that’s easy to manage over the long term is a must

We mainly build in urban areas and a clear idea and response to the constraints and opportunities that kind of environment offers is vital. As long term landlords as well as a developer, great durable design that is easy to manage and maintain over the long term is a must.

What are the biggest mistakes that architects make?
Making assumptions about the type of housing product housing associations are looking for in new development. We always consider carefully ideas that are fresh and unique to the site we are looking to develop. 

What are your hopes and fears in the new dawn of NPPF and localism?
The sector needs measures to promote growth and I am hopeful that the NPPF will act as an important stimulus. As it is new it will of course need time to settle down before we know its impact, especially alongside new legislation such as the Localism Act. We believe our best response is to strengthen our partnerships with high quality innovative architects as well as with local authorities and communities.

What should the government do to kick-start development?
The government needs to continue working with as wide range of people in industry as possible so that we can help to address the problems we face. We need to find a balance between planning, viability and future supply.
We support the drive to reduce red tape and create an environment that allows those who want to innovate to do so. Housing matters; both because we don’t have enough of it and because it supports growth.

Which of your projects are you most proud and why?
L&Q have built and renovated many hundreds of new homes and I’m proud of all of these schemes but two in particular stand out for me: our project at Greengate House in Plaistow by Levitt Bernstein, east London and the Stratford Eye by ATP.
Greengate House was a former YMCA building built in 1919 with a grand ornate street facade which was Grade II listed. We preserved the facade of the older building, maintaining the identity and heritage while delivering high quality modern homes. It was a huge challenge design-wise but well worth the effort.
Stratford Eye in East London was our first major outright sale scheme and a new adventure for L&Q. The scheme incorporated imaginative use of a small and restricted site providing high quality apartments, now overlooking the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, which have sold extremely well.

Which regeneration project other than your own do you admire and why?
Butler’s Wharf in London. The vision, the high quality design by Conran and Partners, and the sensitivity to the heritage of the buildings and its wider setting next to Tower Bridge, really stand out for me. The scheme has been a huge success transforming and rejuvenating the area for the long term.  

What is the best piece of advice you have been given?
If you’ve got a vision and great design to back it up, then overcoming the challenges you face makes this the most rewarding job in the world.

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