Interview: Chris Rhodes from Sutton Council
Mon 19th December 2016, 11:24 am
The Sitematch team catches up with Chris Rhodes, the new head of asset management at Sutton Council
Can you say something about your new role and responsibilities?
I'm responsible for the service which runs the commercial property portfolio, the investment portfolio, disposals, valuation, acquisitions and compulsory purchase. We're involved in some great projects, such as the establishment of the London Cancer Hub for treatment and research, which as well as being a nationally significant medical facility, will create around 8,000 new jobs. In the shorter term we're collaborating on a new masterplan for Sutton town centre to bring forward development.
Like most local authorities, we have challenges to face over ensuring the best possible value is derived from public assets, while managing initiatives such as academy schools. We're also working with the wider public sector to bring forward resources to the best possible effect in property-based projects.
You recently moved from Southwark to Sutton. What spurred this decision?
Partly a career opportunity and partly a change of scene. Southwark is a great borough and a very good place to work, with many interesting projects, and excellent people throughout the council, but after eight and a half years, the most obvious way to try something new was to move on. I knew some of the staff at Sutton already – through networks – and many others who live or have worked here, so had some familiarity with the area.
From the first time I read the person spec it was a job I felt I could do and luckily the interview panel agreed. I was impressed with the projects being undertaken by the council and the fact that it has an in-house professional team covering a wide range of property work. The people, the location and the scope of the job came together as a winning combination.
Ahead of Sitematch London on 8 February, what are the council’s key opportunities?
Primarily, the fact that it's terrific value for money compared with many other localities. You get much more home for your money than many places, with quick access to central London by train – and the parks and open spaces are wonderful. Commercial values also have plenty of scope to grow and I think there's a lot of untapped potential.
We're addressing that through emerging planning policies and our new housing delivery vehicle, called Sutton Living, and also Opportunity Sutton which is marketing the borough's growth and economic development. Sutton is serious about development and investment and has an understanding of what makes the commercial sector tick. We'll be reflecting that in the schemes and projects we are bringing forward, from the London Cancer Hub to the individual sites proposed for development in planning policy.
How does Sitematch fit within the council’s regeneration and property strategy?
It's a chance to promote development opportunities, to network and meet people from the industry and the professional sector that supports it. By establishing a presence, I think you send out a message about being open for business and communication. When the date comes around we'll be wanting to talk about the opportunities presented by new planning initiatives, and we may also have some sites to offer directly to the market.