David Smith Milne 2021
Smith-Milne, former founding CEO of Placefirst

Placefirst duo launches estates redevelopment firm

Sarah Townsend

David Smith-Milne and Peter Martin, former founder and chair respectively of the Salford-based regeneration specialist, have set up Place Capital Group to revive the UK’s ageing housing estates.

Based in Manchester, Place Capital Group will act as a strategic development partner for large local authorities and housing associations, to transform housing estates and deliver better quality homes.

Pooling their own financial resources, Smith-Milne and Martin aim to grow Place Capital through ‘buy-and-build’ model and expect to announce their first acquisitions in the first quarter of this year. Buy-and-build involves purchasing a target company and making substantial additional acquisitions in the same sector to build up strength and profile.

Detailed discussions are understood to be taking place with several parties, but no further information was available at this stage.

Place Capital also intends to announce its first strategic development partnership next month, which will include work on “on one of the North West’s highest profile housing estates”, the company said.

Through Placefirst, Smith-Milne oversaw the development of a portfolio of housing-led regeneration schemes in the region, including the 400-home Welsh Streets scheme in Toxteth, Liverpool, and Chatsworth Gardens in Morecambe.

Smith-Milne, a former executive at Big Four consultancy KPMG and software provider Tribal Group, was founding chief executive of Placefirst until he sold his stake in the firm to private equity fund Eso Capital last year. Placefirst converts empty and derelict terraced houses into new neighbourhoods for private renters. Martin, meanwhile, is a specialist empty homes developer who was previously chief executive of Tribal Group.

The pair will take up the roles of chief executive and chairman of Place Capital respectively. A high-profile board of directors is being selected to join Smith-Milne and Martin and provide expertise in place-led development, with details to be announced shortly.

Smith-Milne said: “There are more than 500 former council estates in the UK. In most cases, these are well-managed by quality landlords, but the opportunity for these estates to contribute to the supply of more and better quality, sustainable housing is often overlooked.

“Through careful placemaking, sensitive remodelling and new masterplans, these housing estates can be transformed and densified to deliver significant numbers of new and innovative affordable homes.”

He added: “Place Capital Group builds on mine and Peter’s experiences of tackling forgotten places. We have been at the sharp end of delivering some of the most challenging regeneration projects in the North of England, having transformed well over 1,000 empty homes into award-winning neighbourhoods, before selling Placefirst last year.

“As the UK slowly emerges from the pandemic, the supply of more and better-quality affordable housing remains a key national priority, and Place Capital Group will be applying its expertise through strategic development partnering contracts with local authorities and the UK’s largest housing associations to deliver bigger, better and even more ambitious regeneration projects.”

Place Capital’s core focus will be on transforming large-scale housing estates into modern, low-carbon and sociable places to live for people on lower incomes. The group will work with clients through the entire life cycle of a development – from initial feasibility studies to longer term development and management of the project.

“Many of our largest housing estates were originally conceived with strong, utopian visions that had social values at their core. These design principles have sadly been lost,” Smith-Milne added.

“We will also be materially enhancing the commercial value of these estates through densification of the housing stock where possible and ensuring that the housing product on offer is fit to the changing needs of the end user, especially an ageing demographic.”

Peter Martin Ex Placefirst

Martin, former chair of Placefirst

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Good stuff and good luck to them

By Tha'knows

Good luck guys

By Jamie