Plan for a 100 new homes in Conwy

A property developer who helped rejuvenate the  Albert Dock in Liverpool has taken the helm of a housing association and unveiled plans to build 100 new homes.

Cartrefi Conwy’s newly-elected Chair, Douglas Leech, says there is a growing need for high quality affordable accommodation in the county.

There are more than 1,000 applicants on Cartrefi Conwy’s county wide register waiting for family homes and total of nearly 2,200 on the register.

In addition to meeting demand, the ambitious house-building programme would also be a major boost to the local economy.

According to Mr Leech, Cartrefi Conwy was at a “watershed moment” in its history.

The aim, he said, was to build on the legacy of their recently completed £30 million housing improvement scheme which generated more than 300 jobs and 300 training opportunities.

Cartrefi Conwy was one of just a few registered social landlords to meet a Welsh Government target to bring all their properties up to Welsh Housing Quality Standard by the end of 2012.

Mr Leech, who lives in Rowen, succeeds Pam Lonie who led Cartrefi Conwy since it was formed in 2008 until she stepped down in the New Year.

The housing association came into being when it took over all Conwy County Borough Council’s 3,800 houses and flats in a stock transfer voted for by council tenants.

Now, said Mr Leech, was the time to get going with the ambitious proposals to build 100 new properties.

He said: “I have been on the Board of Cartrefi Conwy for four years and I was delighted and honoured to be elected Chair.

“Pam did an absolutely fantastic job and I have a hard act to follow. Her departure was a great loss and I will aspire to be as good as she has been.”

Married with one daughter and two grandchildren, Mr Leech is a native of Manchester who moved to North Wales with his family in 1962.

After training as an industrial designer, Mr Leech worked in the Middle East, London and the Midlands before returning to North Wales.

He added: “I cut my teeth on commercial development, first on the Albert Dock in Liverpool and then redeveloping town centres, office schemes and retail schemes in the 1980s and 1990s.

“In the late 1990s I formed Beech Tree Developments with my business partner and we specialise in small niche residential schemes and small retail and office schemes, mainly in the North West.

“I have already been through a very exciting time since joining the Board of Cartrefi Conwy.

“Bringing all our properties up to the Welsh Housing Quality Standard by the end of 2012 was a stunning achievement. We have succeeded where others have failed and it’s down to the calibre of the team at Cartrefi Conwy.

“We are at a watershed in the history of Cartrefi Conwy and over the next five years we aim to grow significantly, improving the services to our tenants and providing more new accommodation while continuing to upgrade our existing stock.

“We also inherited 12 virgin sites and we have other assets we can possibly sell so we can use the money to develop those sites

“In addition, we are looking at schemes where we need to redevelop existing dwellings to provide new and better accommodation.

“We have the skills, resources and assets to build an extra 100 houses over the next few years.

“We will be investing in the local economy because we will be employing local people and setting up local supply chains.

“I believe I have a rare and exciting opportunity and I can bring more than 40 years of experience, in bricks and mortar, in commercial developments, and in dealing with people.

“I am looking forward to using that experience with my colleagues on the Board over the next five years.

“We have the ability to become a beacon, a shining light of best practice in social housing across the UK. It’s going to be really, really exciting.”

Andrew Bowden, the Chief Executive of Cartrefi Conwy, was delighted they had been able to elect such a high calibre successor to Pam Lonie who had provided remarkable and greatly appreciated leadership.

He said: “I have every confidence that Douglas will be an extremely effective Chair as we move into the next phase of Cartrefi Conwy’s development.

“His vast experience and knowledge will be a fantastic asset as we build on our early successes to create an even more  vibrant future for Cartrefi Conwy and our tenants.”

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