David Cowans

Group chief executive

Places for People


Lockdown forced us all to spend much more time at home, emphasising more than ever the importance of home and place. This period has really highlighted the things people value in the places that they live including extensive public green spaces, a feeling of neighbourliness and flexible layouts for working from home. These factors very much align with our existing blueprint for successful placemaking.

Take for example Brooklands, our mixed-use community of 2,500 new homes in Milton Keynes which includes a wide range of facilities for the whole community. Especially important post Covid-19, there are 50 hectares of green open spaces, a community sports pavilion with recreational and sports facilities and community centres, all where people can socialise and improve their wellbeing. The new schools, supermarkets and medical centre also ensure everything is on the doorstep.

There have been countless examples up and down the country of communities coming together and that puts into sharper focus the question of what makes a successful community. Our experience over the past 20 years has shown us that building high quality mixed-tenure developments of affordable and market sale homes is the right approach, and helps to strengthen social cohesion and economic inclusion, giving the opportunity to improve lives and lifestyles.

Partnerships are important to us as well, such as our joint venture at Port Loop with Urban Splash. There are a complete range of homes and facilities to ensure everyone can live, work and play. The first of a series of communal gardens at Port Loop have provided extensive green open space for residents, giving them access to a place to socialise as well as providing a sense of community. Now more than ever, people want homes that are flexible and multi-functional; spaces that are social hubs, workplaces, places to school their children or relax in peace. For our future housing market to be successful, we need to provide more housing choice, improve quality and increase efficiency. We also want customers to have the option to move between tenures in a flexible way that meets their needs and at a cost they can afford.

Despite the difficulties and its impact on the industry, Covid-19 has forced us to learn valuable lessons and put in place wide ranging-measures to support customers. This has been a time to renew our focus on understanding what our customers want from their homes. Recent circumstances will very much continue to inform the way we design places to ensure they are successful for the present and the future.

“The experience is a unique mix of networking, fun and learning. I have never experienced such a broad range of forward-thinking ways of hosting and presenting such as the silent talks that were happening around the venue and the model homes.”
B Lennox, MHCLG