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Meet the developer: Lara Newman of LocatED

Sun 21st January 2018, 12:55 pm

Sitematch London spoke to Lara Newman, CEO of LocatED, which will be attending the event on 8 February for the first time, to find out about the government-owned property company and why she feels it is important to attend the event.

How and why was LocatED founded and what are your role and responsibilities?

LocatED is a government-owned property company creating much-needed school places for thousands of children. The company launched just over a year ago to save taxpayers’ money by providing the commercial and property market expertise to secure sites for free school, more quickly and at better value. Our work supports the government’s ambition to deliver choice, innovation and high standards for parents.

As chief executive, I lead the team to negotiate at pace with multiple partners across the private and public sector – landowners, agents, developers – to acquire the school sites needed. The team also pro-actively manage sites and schools owned by the Department for Education that are not in use, to identify and implement enhanced value. We also dispose of surplus sites no longer needed and work with schools to maximise the use of their assets, for example to help deliver on other government priorities such as housing.

Why did you decide to attend the next Sitematch London event, and what are your objectives for the day?

We need sites in all shapes and sizes and across England, which is fairly unique. To date, there has been a range of sites already acquired for schools, from local authority and central government buildings, to office blocks, factories, churches and retail units, as well as development land. LocatED has more than 100 live site requirements and always seek new partners to secure the best possible results for schools, and Sitematch is a great event to explore new ventures.

Our wide range of site requirements and secured funds means we are in the unique position to have productive discussions with the majority of delegates attending Sitematch. I look forward to making new contacts, discovering potential innovative collaborations and, where relevant, I will be willing to offer learnings and share ideas with delegates following our first year in business at LocatED.

What are some of the qualities you look for in potential sites for schools?

The simple answer is that there is no such thing as a typical school site, so we do not work to a set group of qualities. We take a creative approach to finding the perfect site so that we can be flexible and achieve the best result for the school and children who will attend.

We will therefore consider brownfield, greenfield, mixed-use sites (schools can occupy parts of sites and buildings with other users very effectively), and existing buildings, that can deliver 10,000 to 175,000sq ft of gross internal floor area. We then use the specific brief we receive for each school site, usually in a certain geographical area, taking into account the school’s pupil numbers, specialisms and any other context to determine the qualities that will be important on a case-by-case basis.

What are some of the key challenges that need to be overcome in order to meet the government's targets for building new schools?

The primary ongoing challenge for LocatED is to deliver free school sites both quickly, to keep pace with the demand for pupil places, and at the best possible value for the taxpayer.

This requires efficient negotiation of complex deals, with multiple partners across the public and private sectors. LocatED was set up to take on this specific challenge. Our in-house team of experts – which has skills across acquisition, asset management, development, technical and planning – will ensure that we succeed.

We are broadening the types of buildings and sites developed for schools. We are thinking about it in a way that is perhaps more innovative than before – considering creative land and development sites and with greater access, because of the teams’ contacts, to off-market sites. We also buy land and buildings, with scope to develop further or extend.

 

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