Print This Page Print This Page

Methodist Action

C:\Users\stephen.hetherington.FOXSTREET\Desktop\empty homes presentation\PHOTOS\preston_windsorcastle.jpg

Methodist Action North West – Case Study





Methodist Action North West (MANW) was awarded £500,000 in 2012 and £750,000 in 2013 via  the EHCGP.   In delivering this programme, we have come to realise that there is no unique solution to the problem of empty homes, but there is great strength in local knowledge, local experiences, local priorities & local resources.  It is essential that there is a partnership approach to the problem…..



MANW is a charity that provides support, assistance and accommodation to people in housing need. The Preston based charity delivers services across the North West.  A Place to Live (APTL) is a Social Lettings Agency within the charity, set up with the sole aim of helping people in housing need who have come up against barriers when following traditional housing routes.


MANW secured the funding from the DCLG to help bring empty properties back into use through a ‘One Stop Shop’ solution.  Each property refurbishment was managed by the Empty Homes team who on completion passed the property over to the APTL team to lease for an agreed period of time.  APTL offers a service that is the point of contact for landlord and tenant.


Its EHCGP targeted the whole array of empty property examples.  This included houses, flats, flat conversions, flats over shops and conversion of retail & commercial buildings into houses and flats.  This included two properties in Conservation Areas, an underused furniture shop, a disused pub and a series of buildings which were once a funeral directors.


The programme allowed us to create a variety of accommodation to meet the local authority’s strategic housing needs – from single person flats to four bedroom family houses.



Partnership working was crucial and enabled us to take a proactive approach to the problem, and respond in a flexible and strategic way to each property.  It enabled us to build upon our existing social lettings portfolio, creating high quality, affordable accommodation – encouraging long term, sustainable tenancies.  As the relationship with our Local Authority partners evolved, this allowed us to jointly develop the credibility of the programme and build up the trust of property owners, the local community and local businesses.


One such long term relationship was established with a local developer who owned a complex of empty buildings near Preston Town Centre.  The involvement of the empty property programme on this scheme has been the key to its success.  The owner has said since –


“…without the involvement of the Local Authority, Methodist Action and the funding from the DCLG this project would never have got off the ground.”


Through this collaborative, streamlined approach the team was able to meet and exceed the anticipated targets set at the commencement of the overall programme:


EMPTY HOMES COMMUNITY GRANT PROGRAMME  Round1 (Total Grant inc. overheads etc. £500,000)


Actual Delivered

M’ths empty

Construction Cost Funding Investment only


















EMPTY HOMESCOMMUNITY GRANT PROGRAMME  Round 2(Total Grant inc. overheads etc. £750,000)


Actual Delivered

M’ths empty

Construction Cost Funding Investment only


















THE PROCESS\\2011SBSERVER\Management\Marketing\Marketing 2014\HACT Empty Homes Presentation\photos\WP_20150211_014.jpg

Collaboration extended to every stage of the process, allowing the actual number of staff working on the project to be kept to a minimum – one key person per organisation.  This was very much a cyclical process where resources were shared.  In the diagram below MANW is red and the Local Authority is blue.  Communication was paramount, which included quarterly whole team strategic meetings & regular individual area project site meetings.


The conversion of a former pub, outbuildings, hall, funeral directors & garage to create 24 new homes for affordable rent and regenerate a site close to the City Centre.


– 4 x 1 bed & 3 x 2 bed flats

– 2 x 1 bed & 15 x 2 bed houses\\2011SBSERVER\Management\Marketing\Marketing 2014\HACT Empty Homes Presentation\photos\site plan.JPG

– 9 years empty

– £212,000 empty homes contribution

– £359,000 owner contribution

– LHA affordable rental rate on all properties \\2011SBSERVER\Management\Marketing\Marketing 2015\Empty Homes Case Study\aerial view.JPG

This project is significant in a number of ways:

– it could not have happened without the EHCGP

– it has created a complex of new, affordable homes in a highly desirable and sustainable location close to the City Centre, local amenities and public transport links

– it attracted additional homes in the scheme which were not funded through either programme but were gifted by the developer to MANW under the same lease arrangements

– it brought some historic and architecturally interesting buildings back into use in an area bordering a local Conservation Area and historic landmark buildings

– it has benefitted the local community and local environment by bringing buildings back into use which were attracting anti-social behaviour and becoming an eyesore


This project embodies the spirit and original outcomes of the Community Grant Programme –

local knowledge, local collaboration, local resources, local impact




C:\Users\stephen.hetherington.FOXSTREET\Desktop\AM Club Presentation\cunliffe\WP_20140820_015.jpg\\2011SBSERVER\Management\Marketing\Marketing 2014\HACT Empty Homes Presentation\photos\Photo 26-09-2013 16 53 00.jpgC:\Users\stephen.hetherington.FOXSTREET\Desktop\photos\Windsor Castle PH - before.jpg

The principle buildings prior to work commencing

(left: the Windsor Castle PH; centre: hall complex courtyard – minus roof; right: hall elevation to main road)

C:\Users\stephen.hetherington.FOXSTREET\Desktop\photos\Photo 26-09-2013 16 51 13.jpgC:\Users\stephen.hetherington.FOXSTREET\Desktop\photos\WP_20140820_004.jpg

The principle buildings during building works

(left: the Windsor Castle PH with hall in background; the old hall with the completed pub in background)

\\2011SBSERVER\Management\Marketing\Marketing 2014\HACT Empty Homes Presentation\photos\WP_20150211_014.jpg\\2011SBSERVER\Management\Marketing\Marketing 2014\HACT Empty Homes Presentation\photos\WP_20141205_005.jpg

The principle buildings following completion

(left: the Windsor Castle PH; the old hall with the completed pub in background)

C:\Users\stephen.hetherington.FOXSTREET\Desktop\photos\WP_20140403_041.jpgC:\Users\stephen.hetherington.FOXSTREET\Desktop\photos\WP_20150211_009.jpgC:\Users\stephen.hetherington.FOXSTREET\Desktop\photos\Windsor Castle completed interiors 2.jpgC:\Users\stephen.hetherington.FOXSTREET\Desktop\photos\WP_20150211_007.jpg

Affordable Housing does not mean lower standards – across the entire programme our overall project costs were over 40% less than the DCLG National Average maximum.  We relied only upon DCLG funding, private owner investment and some Local Authority funding to realise all the projects.C:\Users\stephen.hetherington.FOXSTREET\Desktop\photos\WP_20150211_005.jpg


LESSONS & THE LEGACYC:\Users\stephen.hetherington.FOXSTREET\Desktop\4.JPG

“Reflecting on the Programme, it is clear that how we commenced the scheme, was not the same as how we were doing things at the end.  It has been a learning process, which has adapted and evolved over the period – primarily in the increased efficiency of delivery and turnaround of projects.


This was only achieved through developing our partnerships and communication so that external organisations and individuals became actively involved with the scheme’s processes and procedures.  This was particularly evident with the local contractors with whom we established a working relationship.  They developed a ‘trust’ with the team, so that we could ensure that standards were maintained, whilst still achieving good value for money.  In fact most of the contractors commented that because there was a reasonable continuity to the work, they were able to plan projects in advance, negotiate better prices for bulk ordering and ensure consistency in sub-contractor teams.  Ultimately, the results we achieved speak for themselves, achieving an over delivery on the numbers of properties/bedroom spaces predicted at the start of the project.  In addition to this we were able to provide very good value for money – with overall project costs over 40% less than the DCLG National Average maximum.  We relied only on the DCLG funding and private owner investment, with some LA grants to realise a project – we did not use additional loan funding.C:\Users\stephen.hetherington.FOXSTREET\Desktop\Capture.JPG


There were also the more ‘hidden’ added benefits for the programme – environmental improvements & community benefits; £706,260 of private investment into the local economy; and employment opportunities for local businesses.  We were also able to kick start some small scale regeneration, exemplified with this case study.  Looking to other parts of Preston though, we were also able to tackle a significant number of individual properties in a similar area, some on the same street.  This area was Inner East Preston and an area of interest for the local authority, which has recently adopted its own Neighbourhood Plan.  It is hoped that in the future we will be able to target further empty properties and continue the work which has been started by this programme” Stephen  Hetherington Chief Operating Officer Methodist Action NW.C:\Users\stephen.hetherington.FOXSTREET\Desktop\6.JPG


“Preston City Council was delighted to work with Methodist Action on an empty homes project that supported the empty homes work being done by the Council and truly benefitted the wider community by; providing additional housing, improving the streetscene in a number of areas, providing local jobs and kick-starting stalled sites.  Working with a charity encouraged a flexible approach to the type of properties they could consider for the scheme, enabling a variety of residential and commercial properties at varying levels of dilapidation to be brought into use.  It has been an incredibly valuable partnership and one we would like to continue to be part of.


The partnership continues to work together towards securing further funding and projects as part of our joint exit strategy from the programme.  A number of new, and creative, initiatives are under discussion with the expectation that the momentum achieved with this programme will not be lost, but developed and sustained into the future” Alex Starritt Preston City Council.


Although focussed on empty properties, the programme’s ultimate legacy is that we can now provide a home for between 223 and 413 people across the three areas in which we have worked.

Without this programme these people could still be without an affordable place to live