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Placefirst named Residential Innovator of the Year at Estates Gazette Awards 2019

The 2019 Estates Gazette Awards took place on Tuesday 22nd October at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London, attracting over 900 of the UK’s property leading property professionals.

Hosted by Strictly Come Dancing’s Claudia Winkleman, the awards are one of the most prestigious in the UK property event calendar. This year Estates Gazette focussed wholly on celebrating the individuals and businesses at the forefront of innovation, those who are changing the property sector and built environment for the better.

In a toughly contested category including Ballymore, Places for People, L&G and Get Living, the judges felt that Placefirst’s particular approach to build-to-rent was the overwhelming winner of Residential Innovator of the Year. Here’s what the judges had to say:

Phenomenal, brave, different and focusing on a sector of the market that is underserviced. Placefirst is not just an innovator but the future of residential.

Since handing over the keys to our first residents in December 2014, Placefirst have delivered over 600 homes across the north of England that are setting new standards in private renting. Aimed primarily at households on modest incomes, our £70m investment programme has successfully regenerated neighbourhoods deemed areas of last resort through innovative property remodelling and community-led placemaking.

ABOVE: The Welsh Streets, Liverpool. Streets of Victorian terraced housing have been brought back to life through innovative remodelling and refurbishment.


Through long-term build-to-rent investment, Placefirst are demonstrating that high quality homes and placemaking can be delivered in complex inner urban areas without reliance on public subsidy. Our rental communities to date have transformed over 1000 empty properties, creating modern, energy-efficient homes complimented by parks and gardens where families can put down roots.

We have an ambitious programme of new-build development ahead of us and are currently on site with new rental communities in Sheffield and Sunderland where we are delivering over 220 homes. Our aim is to deliver 4000 homes across the UK by 2023 and firmly establish Placefirst as an innovative leader in UK residential development.

Martin Ellerby, Head of New Business & Innovation at Placefirst commented: “This is a phenomenal achievement for an SME based in Manchester, taking on some of the biggest and best players in the residential sector. The words from the judges were particularly humbling and serve as reminder to keep striving and innovating, never accepting ‘OK’ and always seeking to improve our offer.

We are in a privileged position at Placefirst – for too long renting has been seen as a second-class tenure and this has played its part in the poor quality we see in many areas of the private rental sector. Individuals and families who rely on renting deserve a nice home and community as much as homeowners and, through long-term build-to-rent investment, we are demonstrating this is indeed possible and that renting can provide a genuine alternative to ownership.

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Placefirst appoints Paul Westhead as Director of Development

Placefirst, one of the UK’s leading build-to-rent developers, has appointed Paul Westhead as Director of Development. In a new role for the company, Paul will play a key senior role in helping Placefirst achieve its planned target of 3,500 homes by 2023.

With over 30 years’ experience in finance, regeneration and housing, Paul joins Placefirst from Trafford Housing Trust. In his previous roles as Head of New Business and more recently Head of Land and Partnerships, Paul helped establish Laurus Homes, a development subsidiary of Trafford Housing Trust and help set up the innovative joint-venture LLP with the L&Q Group. As Head of New Business Paul led the team that has successfully sourced land for over 2000 mixed tenure homes and prepared those projects pre-construction for the LLP in the past 3 years and established other JV structures to help accelerate housing delivery.

Placefirst designs, builds and manages a growing portfolio of award-winning rental communities that have successfully regenerated inner urban areas through innovative remodelling of Victorian terraced housing. As the company targets 3,500  homes by 2023, the company is diversifying its offer through a range of new-build developments including family housing and multigenerational town centre schemes across the north of England, the Midlands and Scotland.

ESO Real Estate, a majority shareholder in the company, has provided a capital commitment to in excess of £55m, and has been integral in supporting Placefirst to build its organisational infrastructure including the development of Placefirst Construction, the principal contractor for all the company’s developments.

Paul will lead the development strategy of Placefirst to realise their business objectives and growth targets of 3,500 homes by 2023.

Paul commented: “Having enjoyed seven great years at Trafford Housing Trust, and achieved significant growth and diversity, I believed it was the right time to seek a new challenge. The opportunity to join the Placefirst team, to build on the tremendous success they have achieved through their award-winning placemaking and community led developments, was one I could not turn down and I look forward to helping the organisation scale up to meet the housing need of our communities.”

David Christie, Chairman of Placefirst, added: “We are delighted that someone of Paul’s calibre, with proven experience of large-scale housing delivery, has joined the Placefirst team. Paul will play an important role in the next phase of growth towards becoming a national leader in UK build-to-rent housing. There is a genuine need for developers to work with local authorities in the UK to address the acute shortage of housing for families, and Paul has demonstrated considerable success in building strategic relationships.

“During the course of our partnership, Placefirst has enhanced its operational capabilities and, as importantly, with the support of a committed capital facility from ESO Real Estate, Placefirst has been able to access more deals and execute its business plan more effectively, delivering more value and more homes.”

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