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North East Times Interview with Iain Slater

22 Nov 2018

As part of North East Times’ popular Viewpoint series, property writer Chris Dobson recently interviewed Iain Slater, development & estates director at Hargreaves Land, about the group’s move into the property sector.

Hargreaves Land will be a new name to many in the property and development sector so best to start with a few words about the new division…

Hargreaves Land is the property and land division of Hargreaves Services plc. The Durham-headquartered group delivers key projects and services in the property, energy, transport and infrastructure sectors. In recent years, the firm has been building a property team as its strategy evolves to reflect the changing market. Recent appointments include a new group property director, a new head of asset management, a project manager and financial controller, taking the team to 15 full-time members of staff.

What is the thinking behind this move?

Listed on the AIM and employing more than 1700 people, Hargreaves Services has traditionally been associated with coal mining and logistics.

However, the group’s strategy is now to place a greater emphasis on the opportunities offered by its extensive land portfolio. As a result, Hargreaves Land has been formed to optimise the development value of its portfolio and deliver new exciting opportunities in the commercial, residential and renewable energy sectors.

In addition to our Durham HQ, we also have offices in Barnsley, Lanark and Edinburgh, giving us a strong presence throughout the North of England and Scotland. North of the border, we have a number of flagship sites such as Blindwells in East Lothian, where we have secured planning for 1600 new homes, with a further 1200 in the pipeline. At Westfield Energy Park in Fife, we have planning for 300,000-ton waste to energy facility and over 1.2 million sq ft of industrial development. In South Lanarkshire, we have 190 acres at Poniel Business Park with planning consent for mixed-use commercial development.

Tell me about your career to date and what strengths you bring to Hargreaves?

I am a chartered surveyor with over 25 years’ experience gained in commercial development and brownfield regeneration throughout the UK. While working with Scottish & Newcastle, I was responsible for developing the Premier Lodge and Chef & Brewer brands in the North and Scotland. Prior to joining Hargreaves, I worked on developing the ONE North East property portfolio for UK Land Estates as part of the Buildings for Business joint venture. I joined Hargreaves in 2009 as head of development to assist in the delivery of renewable energy projects and to drive value from the company’s property assets. One of my key responsibilities has been driving forward the Blindwells scheme in East Lothian. I am currently tasked with overseeing the property management and development teams within Hargreaves.

You refer to an extensive land portfolio; what are the numbers involved here?

Our land bank extends to over 17,500 acres across over 50 sites throughout the UK. We are able to draw on the skills and resources of the wider Group, including our earthworks and remediation businesses, to unlock value and deliver long-term sustainable development. Typically, we are developing an 80-acre business and energy park at the former Maltby Colliery near Rotherham, over 1000 acres have been earmarked for energy, waste recovery and employment uses at Westfield, Fife, and in Glamorgan, South Wales, we are redeveloping the former Tower Colliery site which extends to over 1000 acres.

What is the future strategy?

Our strategy is to bring forward problematic brownfield sites for redevelopment to unlock value from our extensive and varied land portfolio, which is valued at more than £50 million. This provides us with significant inherent growth potential as part of our corporate vision.

In addition, we have a number of Joint Ventures around the region utilising our expertise to drive value and growth for the business.

Taking a focused view on each site, how will these be brought forward?

We consider each site carefully to identify opportunities which can range from residential and commercial to renewable energy, even agricultural use depending on the suitability of each site.

We have the in-house capability and financial backing to undertake the full remediation of brownfield sites and create development-ready platforms with the necessary infrastructure.

With ambitious plans to establish a growing market presence, we are actively looking at further opportunities to add strategic sites to our portfolio.

The funding of the development programme will be mainly through in-house resources.

Clearly you have given this new departure careful thought. Doesn’t ‘Brexit’ cause a degree of concern?

The diversity of our land portfolio and the sectors within which we operate provide us with plenty of opportunities to grow the business. Despite Brexit, there is clearly demand in the market for new homes and good quality commercial accommodation and we believe this will continue. By regenerating brownfield sites and bringing forward new development our aim is to deliver positive places for future generations.

Click here to read the interview on the North East Times website.