Blog: Client of the Year SECBE Awards 2020 finalist - Sutton Housing Society

20 May 2020

sponsored by Willmott Dixon

Client of the Year SECBE Awards 2020 finalist - Sutton Housing Society

*** Winner! ***

Sutton Housing Society (SHS) is a small, independent registered provider (RP) that owns and manages 485 socially rented homes within the London Borough of Sutton, compared to the largest RP Clarion with 130,000 homes. They are using their ‘scale’ to create a sustainable development pipeline. Without an in-house development team or development staff, they led on and submitted five major planning applications for 79 homes (16% of their stock) all on the same day. If Clarion did the same, it would be the equivalent of 21,000 homes.

Their approach was to group five initial sites together, realising the following benefits:

  • Securing a greater profile and influence, particularly with economies of scale
  • Creating a pipeline to ensure there is a seamless programme so projects can run consecutively, learning lessons from each
  • They can accelerate/slow down their programme to suit the market or funding opportunities
  • Undertaking informal and formal consultations concurrently
  • A collective approach to planning pre-app meetings; agreeing principles across all sites
  • Submitting planning applications on the same day, demonstrating their statement of intent
  • Signalling to existing residents that they believe in their scheme, with planned reinvestment in their homes alongside development plans
  • Creating opportunities to update and modernise 50-year old blocks
  • The designs have adopted the 10 HAPPI (Housing our Ageing Population Panel for Innovation) principles

All five sites were approved under delegated powers. SHS achieved this by unlocking potential in the development of existing sites. They optimised density, while improving the quality of accommodation - achieving an average increase in units of 50% for each location. The work undertaken was an inclusive project, ensuring all staff were involved and communicated with.

As a client, they work with their supply chain in a collaborative way: they let all new contracts without retentions, they omit damages, and invoices are paid quickly. This approach ensures they secure quality outcomes. They successfully gained partnership status with the Greater London Assembly - enabling access to the Mayor’s affordable housing programme. Working with local architects that have not been previously involved in social housing has been a positive experience. They are creating innovative design with fresh eyes, whilst learning about government expectations for social housing.

Consultation was a concern due to the age and profile of residents (who range from 50 to 101). However, using a two-phased approach worked well. Phase 1 was informal consultation, explaining plans and wishes, encouraging feedback and ideas from existing residents. Phase 2 was the formal consultation phase, with regular contact and discussions, highlighting the benefits that the new homes can bring, and the improved and additional facilities that existing residents could benefit from.


  • Five major planning applications submitted on the same day (equivalent to 16% of stock)
  • Using their scale to their advantage
  • Maximising airspace developments, working in tandem with long-term investment decision making

About the Client of the Year Award: 

Construction clients have an important role to play in transforming the way the industry operates.  How projects come to market has a significant impact on the ability of the construction industry to provide innovative, whole life value-for-money solutions. Much waste in construction is driven through approach to risk across the supply chain and judges are looking for a construction client that has been actively involved in enabling the construction programme and developed strategies for encouraging and rewarding excellence. 

> Find out more about the other finalists here

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