One has to be cautious saying one is an expert. With some caution we do however feel we have built up considerable expertise in Prior Approval projects.
We have come to both enjoy and believe in the Prior Approval system. It was not always that way. In the early days Prior Approval looked like it was going to be a race to the bottom. There seemed to be no limitations, no rules, no standards that had to be upheld. It was supposed to be very simple. Cram them in, stack them up and flog them quickly. Of course life is never quite that simple. In the end a market is only as good as its product. Units that no one wants to buy, no matter what the spreadsheet says they are worth per square foot, won’t last long.
Property development is not a cost focused industry. It is always a customer focused one. No matter how we enter property development the outcome must always be the same. We must create a product that people want to buy that can be created at a margin.
By its very nature Prior Approval requires a bespoke approach to design, in order to realise the maximum development potential of each site. No two office buildings are ever the same and with a fixed structural grid and external envelope it can be much harder to achieve a quality product than traditional new build products. This requires creativity and experience. Tried and tested typologies cannot just be regurgitated. Units must be created from first principles every time. It takes experience to do this efficiently.
We have now worked on over 20 projects and designed in excess of 500 units over the past 3 years. Projects that vary in scale and size from 9 units to 90. This has given us a host of experience to build on.
We have come to believe that Prior Approval is a good thing, when it is done well. It is bringing truly affordable housing to the market and it is making efficient use of redundant office buildings. It is also side tracking an often slow and frustrating planning system, bring housing to the market quickly and efficiently. Prior Approval has also allowed a new generation of developers to enter the market. This can only be good for competition and delivery. Prior Approval may yet prove to be one of the best things that happened to the housing market.