Why The Midlands is the ‘Economic Engine House of the UK’

Posted 7 November 2019 by Lizzie Leigh

This week Alex Neale, managing director of Court Collaboration, tells us why the Midlands is the ‘economic engine house of the UK’...

Alex Neale tells us how Birmingham-based Court Collaboration are on track to deliver the Midlands’ first 51-storey skyscraper, offering Buy-to-Rent to purchasers...

Alex, can you tell us a bit about Court Collaboration, how it got started and what your role involves?

The company was founded by our CEO, Anthony McCourt in 2009. I joined the business on secondment initially in 2016 as a Chartered Surveyor, and was responsible for managing the business’s pre-construction and construction phase activities.

Following a successful period in this role, I was subsequently appointed managing director in June 2019. In this role, I am responsible for identifying, securing and acquiring new development and investment for the business, and am often heavily involved in complex acquisition and pre-construction negotiations.

Your website states that your company is ‘hungry and determined to change the face of our sector’ – how are you doing this?

One Eastside (Court Collaboration)Everything we do is driven by passion. We want superior quality of design and exquisite construction, delivering value for our partners and real quality throughout for our residents. The properties we build are not assets, they’re growth hubs for people, communities and economies, so the design, the materials, and the quality control we implement are all part of putting people at the heart of what we do.

And we’re pushing the boundaries in more ways than one. Our challenge to our partners and key stakeholders was to buy into this journey with us and we are now leading the way in the Build-to-Rent market in Birmingham, where no other developer has managed to crack a Build-to-Rent skyscraper.

As a result, we are now on track to deliver the Midlands’ first 51-storey skyscraper, One Eastside, which will encompass 667 beautifully designed one- and two-bedroom apartments.

The business is based in Birmingham but works globally; how are the Midlands viewed as a place to invest by your international clients?

Whilst Court Collaboration’s roots are firmly placed in the Midlands, with our head office based on Colmore Row, it has global reach. Through our network of partners, we are able to successfully collaborate internationally to bring inward investment to the Midlands via Hong Kong, Macau, Beijing, Canada, Dubai and North America.

Anthony recently referred to the Midlands as the economic engine house of the UK at the moment and that’s something we’re seeing with continuous investment in Birmingham and more development coming forward in Wolverhampton; we’ve got Coventry as Capital of Culture 2021, the Commonwealth Games coming, it’s an exciting time in the region and it had global appeal.

Does Court Collaboration offer incentives such as Help to Buy or Part Exchange to customers?

The government-backed Help to Buy scheme plays a huge role in our business and successfully helped many of our buyers to get their foot on the first rung of the property ladder.

We often find that many people still do not know that this scheme is available or what it entails – with many often pleasantly surprised to find out that they can purchase a prime city apartment with just a 5% deposit. That’s why we often hold Help to Buy events at our developments, and in partnership with our Mortgage Brokers and Solicitors, to help increase awareness.

Court Collaboration prides itself on building communities as well as properties – can you tell us more about this?

We work with some of the most experienced Build-to-Rent investment funds in the world, who buy, own and operate buildings for years after we have completed our role as developer. Our objectives are aligned with them in that we work together to design and build community-focused schemes.

This applies both to the spaces that residents share within our developments – for example a rooftop dining and bar area at One Eastside, where we’ll also have a gym, a yoga room and a cinema room – and how our developments benefit the local area, such as our recently approved Leeds development, Saxton Lane, where we’ll be regenerating adjacent railway arches for leisure and retail uses, and delivering a new public piazza, which will be an attraction for our residents and the wider local community.

How is the local property market performing at the moment?

Although Brexit is having an impact on the property market across the nation, Birmingham is still continuing to thrive and we are still seeing a steady stream of local buyers coming through our doors looking to purchase their dream property. Whilst many residential developers are bound to be feeling the pinch with sales taking a little longer to convert than in previous years, there is an enormous amount of large-scale redevelopment currently taking place in Birmingham. With this, purchasers now have more choice than ever and the slower sales pace may be reflective of this.

What will be the biggest change in the new build sector over the next few decades?

I honestly think our biggest challenge presently is the skills gap. We have a huge opportunity in the Midlands to grow the pool of talent but unfortunately, the ‘bad times’ associated with property and construction continue to put potential candidates off pursuing a career in the industry. For me, this is a total travesty. This is a fantastic industry to work in and one which I have been lucky to make many friends. I hope that we can continue to attract talent and Court Collaboration will most certainly be playing a key part in that role.

What’s the most valuable piece of advice you would give to anybody considering buying a new build property?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions on the type of construction used, carry out your own independent research and steer clear of builders without a clear track record of delivery in your area. As well as this, also make sure the building has at least a 10-year warranty and when you move in, don’t be afraid to go back on any outstanding snagging and keep up pressure on your contractor until you are satisfied with the end result - you are paying for it after all!

What are the main schemes you are working on right now?

Arden Gate (Court Collaboration)Our Arden Gate development in Birmingham is continuing to prove popular with a wide range of purchasers, with just 20% of the one- and two-bedroom apartments now remaining.

From a planning perspective, One Eastside is one of our key developments. Birmingham’s first true high-rise Build-to-Rent residential scheme will tower 51-storeys above the city. The design, which has been worked up in conjunction with one of the world’s biggest Build-to-Rent funds contains high quality amenity space including that residents’ only sky lounge on the top floor, which will command spectacular views across the city.

There are other schemes coming forward and we’re excited to be submitting a brand new development for planning very shortly, when we’ll be able to get into more detail.

And finally, what does 2020 have in store for Court Collaboration?

2020 is going to be a very busy year for Court Collaboration, with a number of key developments commencing on site. Each of these impressive schemes will successfully provide high quality living for thousands of people and as a company, we are excited to see years of hard work come to fruition. I hope that 2020 really puts Court on the map as the “go to” residential investor, we have a huge platform to build from and I am excited to enjoy delivery and continued growth in our business.

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