The Daily Express on Royal William Yard

September 1st, 2014 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Tom Bloxham MBE


The Daily Express has written a feature about the changes we’ve made at Royal William Yard over the past 10 years; an article that comes following HRH The Prince Of Wales’ visit to the scheme.

Read the full story below or on the Express website


It could have been risky inviting Prince Charles to inspect a redevelopment site not only bearing the royal name but one that he might also fondly remember from visits during his Navy days. The Prince is after all well known for his readiness to pronounce on architecture.

The truth is, though, in taking on the daunting challenge 10 years ago of restoring Royal William Yard on Plymouth’s sea-lapped southern fringe, developer Urban Splash had already taken a big plunge. The original architect who also laid the foundations, Sir John Rennie, was commissioned in 1824 to construct a naval victualling yard “capable of embracing every requisite function”.

By the mid-1830s a mill, bakery, brewery, slaughterhouse and officers’ residences had been built on the 16-acre site to a scale that allowed today’s planners licence to think big. Indeed, the grandeur of these buildings was in part their downfall as such archaic places (some had become redundant soon after they were created) were expensive to maintain and deemed unsuitable to use for mere storage.

The Ministry of Defence, which owned the site, closed it in 1985. Michael Heseltine was the presiding axeman. The site lay unused despite ambitious efforts, a redundant monument to a proud naval heritage.

Indeed the buildings were considered just that, ancient monuments that were therefore untouchable.

“The buildings were scheduled as actual monuments originally, so we had to downgrade them to Grade One listed buildings to develop them at all, which took a time,” said Tom Bloxham, founder and chairman of Urban Splash, who escorted the Prince on the tour on Tuesday.

“I think the sheer scale of the problem frightened some. For us, they are just fantastic buildings; we fell in love with them immediately.” Care has been shown in making good the collection of forgotten and stately, if slightly austere, buildings.

This was not about new glass and steel affairs or monstrous new carbuncles but sensitive restoration and it was a fair bet the Prince would find much to like in what he surveyed. So it proved.

“I have been to the yard before and it was really fascinating to see it come back into use and see so many people enjoying it,” he said after his visit. “It’s wonderful to see so many recycled materials being used.”


Mr Bloxham added: “It was fantastic to show Prince Charles the yard. He has known the buildings for longer than I have because he knew them when he was in the Navy. “I think he has a genuine passion for the built environment and has been consistent with his love of finding uses for historic buildings.

“We don’t agree on everything but he’s been to see our Collegiate building in Liverpool and the Smithfield in Manchester, so now he’s been to the Royal William Yard.

“I think he was genuinely enthused by what he saw and these are the sort of projects he’s very keen on.”

When it took on the Plymouth site a decade ago, Urban Splash set out to turn somewhere old and tired into a modern, versatile space, the hallmark of the company.

Hundreds of jobs, 216 homes and almost 90,000 sq ft of workspace have been created, while businesses and institutions including universities, design agencies, architects and recruiters have been brought to the area.

Now a gastronomical hub for Plymouth, Urban Splash has lured some great brands to the development including Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage.

Art galleries, an artisan bakery and a relaxed nightlife, far from the bawdy charms of Plymouth’s nearby Union Street, all make up part of the revitalised quarter, which has scooped awards for design, commercial use, benefit to tourism and sustainability.


“It’s interesting to be able to step back, 10 years on, and look at what’s been achieved. Like many big projects, if you take it as a single job it would scare you off, so we just took it job by job,” said Mr Bloxham.

This is what he and his Urban Splash co-founder Jonathan Falkingham have been doing ever since embarking on their first redevelopment in 1993 and the formula still seems to be working for them.

“It’s like having a giant Lego set to be able to take on these fantastic, if challenging, buildings and bring them back into use, whether it’s the Royal William Yard in Plymouth, Fort Dunlop in Birmingham, Lister Mills in Bradford or Ropewalks in Liverpool,” said Mr Bloxham.

“Most people, certainly in the property industry, would say there’s no future in these buildings. I think we’ve shown that with a bit of imagination, working with the right architects, you can bring them back.”

So watch out, they could be coming to an abandoned cinema near you soon, or factory site, former school, warehouse, mill or block of flats. “We’re always looking for opportunities,” added Mr Bloxham.

“One day someone rang me up out of the blue and asked if I wanted to look at Royal William Yard, and it was the same with Fort Dunlop. Sometimes we say ‘no’, others we say ‘yes, we can make something happen here’. And then we make something happen.”

Filed under: Mills Bakery, Plymouth, Royal William Yard, Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash No comments

My design inspiration: Sir Terence Conran

August 27th, 2014 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Tom Bloxham MBE


Thanks to Designer Kitchen and Bathroom magazine who this month asked me to write about my design inspiration - Sir Terence Conran. You can read what I had to say below and see the full August issue of the magazine here


I love good design and am constantly inspired by beautiful new buildings and objects.

There are so many architects and designers  who I admire so much., however, the person who I have picked for this column is one of the most extraordinary in the design world – Sir Terence Conran.

When he pioneered the first Habitat store in 1964, it brought great European contemporary design to England at prices that were affordable to the masses. Previously great design had been the preserve of the rich and Habitat in its early days was revolutionary, bringing colour, simplicity and great design at prices most could afford.

Not only though did Sir Terence become one of the great retailers, he was also a developer, developing Butler’s Wharf on the south bank of the Thames and a restauranteur bringing great Italian and European food to England with restaurants like Bibendum. He’s still a fantastic retailer with shops like the Conran Shop and of course his ongoing architectural practice.

A true renaissance man, thank you Sir Terrance for making the lives of so many people in this country a bit richer.

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On July 15, HRH Prince Charles visited Royal William Yard to celebrate 10 years of Urban Splash involvement at the scheme, a period which has seen it transformed from a derelict, empty naval yard to a bustling collection of shops restaurants, homes and workplaces.

HRH was impressed at this transformation, saying it had been “fascinating to see it come back into use and to see so many people enjoying it.”









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It was great to see in Property Week this full page article on Urban Splash and I hope that the journalist Hannah Brenton’s comment that our revival “might just mirror a larger recovery…” is right.

The article comes after we published our annual results for the year which showed an increase in sales of £99m! Read the story below or on the Property Week website


Developer focuses on growth after recording its best ever results. Hannah Brenton reports…

Urban Splash, Tom Bloxham’s multi-award winning residential developer, has shaken off its debt pile to return to profit and record its highest-ever turnover in its latest results.

The spectacular return to form in the year to September 2013 marks a turning point not just for Urban Splash — which on Monday also announced the sale of former Birmingham tyre factory-turned-office Fort Dunlop to Tristan Capital Partners — but also possibly the wider regional market.

Now, its charismatic chairman Bloxham, known for his trademark trilby, reveals to Property Week he is preparing to put his foot on the gas again after what he acknowledges has been a long hard road back to growth — most of which Urban Splash has spent beholden to its debt burden.

“We probably had 15 years of uninterrupted growth where we were building up to 1,000 units a year,” he recalls. “But in 2008, the financial crisis stopped all that and for the last four or five years we’ve been sorting out our debt issues and finishing off the schemes we started.”

These issues have largely been resolved, he says. In April, the company agreed a refinancing with Pears Group to replace £135m of facilities held by the Co-operative Bank, Blackstone, HSBC and the Royal Bank of Scotland. This was facilitated by a corporate restructuring last August which enabled Urban Splash to manage legacy assets for its lenders — who were owed more than £200m — and pursue new joint ventures.

The agreement followed the sale of a £77m portfolio of 654 flats, comprising whole blocks in Manchester, Plymouth, Bristol, Bradford and Leeds, to housing association Places for People — a deal Bloxham credits with the rise in turnover.


All of this means that Urban Splash can now start looking to the future again. It is already on site for the next phase of Park Hill, the iconic Sheffield council housing redevelopment that was shortlisted for the 2013 Stirling Prize, through its partnership with registered provider Places for People.

“We’ve got some housing in Manchester and New Islington, we’ve got the next phase of Park Hill in Sheffield and we’ve got a number of other plots around the country that we are looking to develop,” Bloxham says.

There are plans in the pipeline for Liverpool and Plymouth, for instance. The developer has also secured planning consent for 2,000 units on land it already owns and is hoping to roll out its new concept “House”, which will enable buyers to individually specify terraced houses with their preferred fittings, in Manchester this autumn.

Meanwhile, it has continued to manage 2m sq ft of commercial space and operate 800 private-rented units, with Bloxham keen to build a larger PRS portfolio.

“Most of the other property assets, whether it be student housing, or supermarkets or data centres, it’s hard to see them living more than 30 years or so and needing to be fully depreciated over that period of time, whereas we’re still living in residential apartments that were built hundreds of years ago,” he says. “We believe it’s a market that’s here to stay, it’s a market that we know very well and it’s a market where we are looking for opportunities to build another 1,000-plus units.”

Bloxham believes the regional markets are on the cusp of a recovery, largely due to the growing value gap with London. “Many people see London as being hard to achieve the returns or yields they are looking for. Therefore, they’re looking in other parts of the country and they’re looking for experienced operators,” he says.

So as things start to improve, what will Bloxham do differently this time round? “We’ve probably raised more than £1bn of conventional bank debt over 20 years. I think it’s unlikely we’ll be doing that again going forward,” he says. “We’ll be looking for more of a mixture of our own equity, joint venture partners, profit sharing agreements, and true joint ventures.”

The last few years have been challenging, he admits. “It has been very, very difficult. I do believe that we’ve turned the market simply because we’ve restructured all our debts and that’s what’s been occupying our mind for a large number of years.”

With its fate tied to the regions, Urban Splash’s revival might just mirror a larger recovery.

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Saxton: the balance between outdoor and indoor living

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014


It’s great when other people write about our developments, and I was delighted today to see this piece about our Saxton, Leeds development on the Government’s Help to Buy site.

You can read the full article below…


“Ordinarily, city centre living means replacing a BBQ in the garden for a glass of champagne on the balcony.

However the innovative Saxton development, located in the heart of Leeds, mixes up the balance between outdoor and indoor living.

Developer Urban Splash began building the development in 2005 and now consists of 410 deluxe apartments split into two buildings, Drive and Parade. These are set within 6 acres of meadows, including allotments, orchards and a park for all to enjoy but still just a 5 minute walk from the city centre.

The site offers a wide variety of different apartments to suit everybody’s taste. The thinking behind the building was to work with the original 1950s structure that was there, whilst adding a modern twist by focusing on subtle colour changes in the materials used.


The 1 and 2 bedroom apartments are built to a high quality finish with features such as engineered wooden floorboards; slate bathroom flooring, luxurious carpets and floor length windows. As well as great interiors the apartments also have ample parking facilities and a large gym where you can book a personal trainer to help burn away those extra calories.


It is the outdoor space though that makes Saxton such a unique development. The huge gardens include allotments available to rent. So far, homeowners have rented 80 out of the 97 allotments and a keen interest in the gardens is clear to see amongst everyone living there. Near to the development, there are privately owned flats with owners that also enjoy gardening and looking after their environment ensuring that there is a good relationship between the them and the community at Saxton.

When reflecting on the success of the site Anthony Mackle, manager of the development, said: “Urban Splash always look for an exciting building to work with. Saxton is in a great location and has lots of space around it which is unusual for a city centre – allowing allotments and gardens. That was a huge appeal for us and has helped us to create a truly unique development.”

The apartments at Saxton are available to buy through a Shared Ownership scheme, a government funded initiative to help get people on to the property ladder. For the remaining share of the property you will need to pay market rent, determined by the housing association. This means that owning 100% of your apartment is achievable. The scheme would allow you to purchase a share in your home, ranging from 25-75%, with the opportunity to buy additional shares in the future.


Saxton is now complete and Urban Splash is focusing on their other projects: Lister Mills in Bradford and Park Hill in Sheffield. These are both ambitious developments that will share the same quality finish that has been achieved at Saxton.

There are a lot more people choosing to buy through Shared Ownership in 2014, as it is an easier way for young professionals to be able to buy a first home.

If you are interested in viewing the apartments and grounds at Saxton please contact Anthony Mackle by calling 0333 666 6000 or email”

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What a fantastic day we had yesterday celebrating a decade of Urban Splash involvement at Royal William Yard in Plymouth - an occasion marked by a visit to the site by His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales.


There were hundreds of people on site to greet the Prince, there was a great atmosphere and the weather was glorious! The Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Cllr Michael Fox gave a speech on the day, and summed up everyone’s sentiments saying “We are delighted to have you here to celebrate the establishment of Britain’s Ocean city 100 years ago. It is a marvellous opportunity to promote Plymouth and the fantastic work which goes on here.” He went on to thank our team and the entire Plymouth community.

Meanwhile, I got the chance to give HRH a full tour of the Yard, allowing us a chance to show him what has changed in the decade we’ve been involved. Thankfully, he liked what he saw and told me it had been: “fascinating to see it come back into use and to see so many people enjoying it.”


The Prince is a great fan of architectural heritage and has a real passion for saving old buildings; I know he has had a long and serious interest in this collection of buildings – which bears not only his son’s name but also has connections to the royal family as a whole.

It was a pleasure to show him how we have brought the area back to life and to explain our plans for the final two buildings which will bring a five-star hotel and artists’ studios to the scheme. You can read more about what we’ve done at the Yard and what we’ve got planned here.

You can also read what the local press had to say about the Royal visit here, what the Express had to say about the ‘royal seal of approval’ here - and you listen to my radio interview from the day on BBC Radio Devon.

Filed under: Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash No comments

Celebrating my LJMU Fellowship

July 15th, 2014 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Jonathan Falkingham MBE


Yesterday, I was delighted to be awarded an Honorary Fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University.

I received the honour for my contribution to entrepreneurship and regeneration in Merseyside; I suppose with great schemes like Concert Square, Ropewalks and the Matchworks we’ve done alright in this city so far! It was also a great chance for me and my Urban Splash co-founder Tom to take to the stage and share our memories of the fantastic business we’ve created (as well as dressing up - see image above..!).


Below you can read both our speeches - each of which give you a great insight into our working relationship and the history of Urban Splash.. Enjoy!

Tom on Jonathan…

“Honourable Pro-Chancellor, I have pleasure in presenting Jonathan Falkingham MBE for the award of an Honorary Fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University.

Although I am not an employee of LJMU, I too am also privileged to hold an Honorary Fellowship from this great University and although this is the first time I’ve had the privilege of delivering this Honorary Fellowship citation wearing another hat, Chancellor of University of Manchester I’ve had the honour to give out hundreds of Degrees over the past 5 years.  However, never has it given me so much pleasure as today.

I have known Jonathan for over 25 years, we started up in business together, we have seen the ups and downs of business, seen our kids grow up, have been not only business partners but also the best of friends and we have shared many of life’s highs and lows, not to mention a few drinks!

It’s a great privilege to be here in this great building in this great City and great University.This is a truly civic university, firmly rooted in this extraordinary city, and its defining ethos comprises three deceptively simple yet very powerful words: Dream. Plan. Achieve.

Each year at Graduation,  the University’s highest honour – an Honorary Fellowship - is bestowed on a select band of individuals outside the University, in recognition of their outstanding achievement in a given field or profession, and who personify and inspire others to ‘dream, plan, and achieve.’

rwy_beforeafter1Royal William Yard, Plymouth

Jonathan is a rare breed – a talented and award-winning architect with a fondness for down-at-heel buildings from Britain’s industrial past, coupled with the entrepreneurial spirit and daring to return this heritage to twenty first century use. As co-founder and Creative Director and the clever one of the renowned urban regeneration company Urban Splash, he has been the creative force that has brought beautiful buildings back to life in many of our cities. Iconic buildings including; Fort Dunlop in Birmingham, Plymouth’s Royal William Yard and in Liverpool; The Matchworks, Collegiate, Old Haymarket and many more buildings in Liverpool’s Ropewalks area are all testimony to Jonathan’s vision, who we propose today, in recognition of his services to entrepreneurship and regeneration.

fort_beforeafter2Fort Dunlop, Birmingham

Jonathan left his native Bradford to study architecture at the University of Liverpool, graduating with first class honours. The Liverpool he graduated into in 1981 was not the handsome city we see today. It had endured decades of neglect and was beset by social and economic troubles – in terms of physical infrastructure it was at its lowest ebb and unemployment was rife. Undeterred, Jonathan elected to stay and set up his own architecture practice – Design Shed – with his brother Miles. Fast forward 26 years, and today his graduate start-up has morphed via a merger into the award-winning shedkm, which continues to be as a thriving architectural practice working in Liverpool and London.

In its earliest days, Design Shed was based in the old Liverpool Palace building on the corner of Slater Street, which was my first freehold purchase in what was then a sad and rundown area. Design Shed had helped create the iconic Baa Bar there, whose design and styling helped attract the noteworthy clientele that fed its reputation.

Jonathan and I found that we shared common views around design, the power of branding and the potential for city living to revive city centres. We both thought Liverpool was an exciting city, despite its 1980s shabby image and saw its potential to be like other attractive European cities like Barcelona, Paris and Berlin, where people lived, worked and played in their beautiful historic city-centre buildings.

Jonathan and I co-founded Urban Splash in 1993, literally two men in a rather large shed defying conventional wisdom at that time by taking land and buildings widely considered to be of little value by the property world, either economically or in heritage terms, adding great design, branding and marketing and creating something new and valuable.  In the beginning there was no big plan, no strategy, no idea of what we were to become, just a wholehearted belief in cities, in design, in architecture and a desire to make things better. To make things the way we wanted them to be - different than they were before.

b4_conc11Concert Square, Liverpool

Where property development is about fulfilling a demand, regeneration is about creating it. In the early days we worked with existing buildings that we fell in love with, buildings that had fallen apart and that we made better. Jonathan was the driving force behind our first urban project – Liverpool’s Concert Square, which converted an abandoned warehouse into the north west’s first loft apartments aimed at young professionals, and commercial space that is now home to a wealth of bars, galleries and creative businesses. The first phase of the Ropewalks area, Concert Square received an RIBA Award for Architecture in 1996 and is widely acknowledged as the cornerstone of the subsequent regeneration of this area of Liverpool into the city’s cultural and digital quarter.

matw_beforeafterThe Matchworks, Liverpool

When we ran out of buildings to convert we started to make our own. We made homes, we made offices and we made special spaces in between for people to be and do things that people do – in shops, bars restaurants, parks and even hotels. In the early days we worked with existing buildings that we fell in love with, buildings that had fallen apart and that we made better. We started in Manchester and Liverpool but soon we were being encouraged to do things in other areas: Leeds, Bradford, Plymouth, Bristol, Sheffield, Birmingham, Salford, all great cities that were thirsting for change.

The company enjoyed 15 years of uninterrupted growth and accolades – to date, Urban Splash has received over 350 awards for architecture, regeneration, marketing and enterprise. During this time, Jonathan was awarded national and Northern region Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 1999, 2005 Director of the Year by the Institute of Directors North West and several awards for the redesign and regeneration of his own home in south Liverpool, where with typical aplomb and ambition and eye for a wreck, he successfully married a Grade II listed seventeenth century building with twenty first century materials, technology and design.

However, no business can operate independently of the wider economy. When the 2008 credit crunch bit, it did so very hard and very fast. When Lehman Brothers collapsed and triggered the global banking crisis, Urban Splash had £1bn of projects in the pipeline and £250m of bank debt, we were spending £9m a month on construction costs. We were not, as we initially hoped, insulated from the worst of the fall-out, even with schemes pre-sold for two years ahead. Aspirations had to be checked.

Spending had to be cut. Redundancies had to be made. The business model had to be adapted. With the benefit of hindsight, we had probably grown too fast and it was a very painful, but ultimately salutary lesson.

It has taken five years to return to some semblance of financial stability during which time we have returned to our roots, with plans to revolutionise the new-build housing market and by making good design affordable. Jonathan has faced the most testing of times, personally and professionally over the last few years but has continued to support upcoming young architects as a board member of the Liverpool Architecture and Design Advisory Panel and as a Trustee of the Royal Institute of British Architecture. He has also contributed and continues to contribute to his adopted city as a trustee of National Museums Liverpool and of the Royal Court Theatre. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. Most deservedly, he was awarded an MBE in the 2013 Queen’s birthday honours for services to architecture and regeneration.

Thus, it is with great pleasure that I present Jonathan Falkingham, this most distinguished adopted son of our city, for admission to our highest honour, as an Honorary Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.”


Jonathan’s response…

“Thank you Tom – a quite humbling citation. And thank you Pro-Vice Chancellor, Vice Chancellor and the whole of Liverpool John Moores University for conferring this Honorary Fellowship. It truly is a great honour and I feel very privileged to have been involved in the amazing renaissance of this great city – which has transformed beyond recognition in the last 25 years – it really has.

I was thinking about what I could say of relevance to an audience of Business School graduates. I could talk about the importance of design and architecture all day long but I suppose what crossed my mind is that you are all graduating just as it seems as though we are emerging from a severe and protracted recession and this is very similar to when I graduated back in 1988 and in a sense is the back story to the formation Urban Splash.

rope_beforeafterThe Ropewalks, Liverpool

The city was then in the grip of the last recession so jobs for enthusiastic (and I like to think talented!) architecture graduates, like myself, were virtually non-existent and my peers left the city in droves to find work in exotic locations all over the world.

I however decided to stay – partly because I loved the place, loved the architecture, loved the culture the people and the easy way of life but also because the cities economic malaise presented opportunity and in a youthfully idealistic and rather naïve way I believed I could make something of this although what and how I didn’t really know at the time.

So instead embarking on a straight forward career as an architect, which is what I’d always imagined, I found myself having to be very resourceful, using my limited knowledge, skills and experience but my unlimited enthusiasm, creativity, energy, idealism and most of all naivety – all fantastic gifts of youth – ideally suited to imagining and creating new possibilities and new futures.

And that’s what’s interesting about recessions – they are hugely painful for the businesses and individuals that are affected by them (Urban Splash has had its fair share of woes in the last five years) but they also present great opportunities to explore new ways of thinking and new ways of doing things. The old economic rules and systems have by definition fractured and in some cases failed entirely which opens the door for new models and creates lots of space in the market for new ideas.

And young graduates like you are very well placed to take advantage of this. For me, it is also vital that you believe in what you do - at Urban Splash we have a simple mission statement which is “to create great buildings, spaces and communities in which to live, work and play’, but physical regeneration should also be lasting and sustainable and therefore we are also keen to ensure that we create a legacy. One of our favourite quotes, which we use relentlessly is the oath that had to be sworn by any new citizen of ancient Athens – the concluding part of which reads: “we will leave this city not less, but better,  greater and more beautiful than it was left to us”

And, this simply stated aspiration for a better place and a better society applies to all people in all professions and walks of life and is as relevant today as it was when it was recited 2,000 yrs ago. It’s about everyone playing their part and most importantly, being custodians of a civic, civilised and lasting community.

And, if this last recession has taught us anything it is perhaps that the pursuit of money as an object in itself is unsustainable and that for the health of society it is important that there is a purpose to our endeavours that goes well beyond that of mere self interest.

So my advice, as you graduate today, is if you can - do something you really love and something you really believe in, but also be naïve and try to make a difference.

Thank you.”

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Announcing two major Urban Splash deals

July 14th, 2014 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Tom Bloxham MBE


I wanted to share with you the news of two deals we have completed this week; the first which saw us sell Fort Dunlop in Birmingham to Tristan and the second in which we sold elements of our Manchester residential portfolio to Places for People.

Each deal includes the sale of buildings that we’ve taken from an unloved, disused spaces, before turning them into real icons of regeneration. I am delighted to be able to share these news links outlining the next stage in their existence with you:


Manchester PRS sale to Places for People

24 Housing

Building Design

North West Business Insider

The Manchester Evening News

The Business Desk

Fort Dunlop sale to Tristan

The Birmingham Post

The Express and Star

Midlands Business Insider

The Business Desk

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Plymouth’s book of wonder

July 8th, 2014 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Nathan Cornish


I was delighted to read online this week Plymouth’s new ‘Book of Wonder‘, which features 100 facts about Plymouth and some stunning photographs that’ll help people outside the City see what all the fuss is about.

Did you know for example that Plymouth is the greenest city in the UK with 40 per cent of the city green space? Or that Houdini challenged carpenters from Devonport naval base to make a box from which he could not escape. He was nailed inside the box at his show at the Palace Theatre and escaped in 12 minutes! Or that Laurel & Hardy (my childhood favourites) and Charlie Chaplin were just some of the global stars to frequent the City’s Palace Theatre?

The book also tells the story of Plymouth’s thriving businesses and the role some of the industries here have played; for example Kawasaki‘s Plymouth factory supplied the hydraulic motors that were used to bore the Channel Tunnel and Wrigley’s Plymouth factory produces over three million packets of chewing gum… in a day! That’s a lot of chewing!


Plymouth has provided Urban Splash with a special place that we feel privileged to be part of at the Royal William Yard, a place the book calls a ‘cultural hotspot’. We’ve transformed a disused Naval supplies yard and created a destination that attracts residents and visitors alike. I’m delighted its considered one of the wonders of Plymouth and I’d urge anyone who hasn’t yet been to see why and head on over...

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This week, I was delighted to announce the results of our annual accounts which show a £99m increase in turnover and a return to profit (I wish we could have worked a bit harder to make it to £100m!).  Below you can read the full Chairman’s Statement from the accounts as well as some of the press coverage we’ve received about them in the past few days…

Property Week

The Architects’ Journal

Building Design

Manchester Evening News

Manchester Gazette


Liverpool Echo

Birmingham Post

The Business Desk

Plymouth Herald

Yorkshire Post

Full Chairman’s Statement:

Even for an eternal optimist like me, in recent years writing my statement in these accounts has at times been difficult, due the problems suffered by the business as a result of the financial crisis which seemed never ending.  It is therefore very pleasing to say that the last 18 months has been one of the most important in the group’s recent history, and one which has hopefully put the group on a sound platform for future growth as well as finding a solution to the problems associated with the large debt burden which has beset us since the onset of the financial crisis in late 2008.

In July 2013 and after 18 months of hard work with our banks, the Homes and Communities Agency and the team of advisers, we successfully concluded a fundamental restructure and refinance of the group which has addressed the legacy debt position of the group and created a new corporate structure enabling the business to grow, start new development projects and form new joint venture relationships which we believe will be key to the future success of the business.

At the same time we completed the sale of £77.7 million of residential property to Places for People retaining the ongoing management of the portfolio. This enabled the group to repay the majority of its facilities with the Homes and Communities Agency and a substantial amount of bilateral bank facilities. This sale was the start of a long term successful partnership with Places for People, one of the country’s biggest property management, development and regeneration companies. In February this year, we established a joint venture with Places for People to develop property across the UK. We are delighted that our first project together, the construction of 182 apartments in the second phase of Park Hill, Sheffield is currently on site with other schemes hopefully starting in the near future.


The restructure in the summer of 2013 did not at the time address our remaining legacy debt facilities, our syndicated £113m commercial property loan. The final piece of the restructuring jigsaw was put into place when in April of this year, we cancelled our swap arrangements and working in partnership with The Pears Group reached agreement with our banking syndicate to refinance the debt.  We have also formed another joint venture with Pears which we look forward to developing over the coming years.

Perhaps even more pleasing and despite the restructure and refinance absorbing a huge amount of management time, much has been achieved across the business in a number of areas. We have continued to deliver award-winning buildings, we were nominated for the prestigious Stirling Prize for our Park Hill development and we have won 46 more awards, taking our total to 363.

I am also delighted to report that during the last 18 months, we completed construction of our schemes at Lakeshore in Bristol, the first phase of Park Hill in Sheffield, one of the country’s most ambitious regeneration projects and New Cooperage at the Royal William Yard in Plymouth. All of these schemes are either fully let or sold and each scheme has already won several awards.


We continue to spend much time and hard work developing our commercial investment portfolio and the residential portfolios that we manage for Places for People and others. This has allowed us to increase our annualised investment income overall to £14.7 million (£22.1 million for the 18 months to 30 September 2013), up £0.8 million. We believe our buildings are exceptionally well designed and both residential and commercial tenants appreciate the quality design and service Urban Splash is able to offer. We believe this sets us apart from the competition.

Turning to the figures, turnover has increased to £132.6 million from £33.7 million, principally as a result of the residential sale to Places for People of £77.7m. However, it’s worth noting this is the Group’s largest ever recorded turnover.  We also recorded our first profit for a financial period since 2008 of £0.05m improved from the loss of £15.4 million in the previous year. A revaluation of our commercial properties at 30th September 2013 has shown a reduction in value of £16.3 million (2012: reduction of £6.9 million) reflecting the fact that values of regional commercial property portfolios remain depressed.

Despite the difficulties faced over the last 5 years, Urban Splash has maintained its reputation as one of the country’s leading regeneration companies.  With our restructure and refinance behind us I believe that together with our new partners and our established brand, we are in a position to respond to the many opportunities now presented by the property market in the UK - we have lots of new ideas and we hope to be announcing some of them soon.

Looking forward, in the last few months both the economy and particularly the UK regional property market has shown real signs of growth.  The country continues to suffer from the severe shortage of housing particularly affordable housing and all the major political parties appear united in trying to find a solution.

I hope having survived the worst economic downturn I can remember, restructured our business and formed new joint ventures with some very significant and substantial partners, we will be well placed to continue delivering award winning regeneration schemes and much needed new homes and work spaces up and down the country.


As ever, my thanks go to all our public and private sector partners and above all my colleagues. I am hopeful that the past is behind us and I am very much looking forward to driving this great business onward and bringing new exciting, innovative and amazing regeneration projects to the market.

Filed under: Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash No comments