When is a ground-breaking not a ground-breaking?

Construction on eco-friendly, modular build for single parents and young people progresses rapidly

On a chilly but bright February day, a group of colleagues from Transform gathered at a construction site in Redhill. Carrying a spade, they were sporting high-vis jackets and hard hats and were accompanied by representatives from Rollalong – the largest offsite modular build contractor in the south of England.

The individuals were attending a photoshoot to mark the first stage of construction of a building encompassing eight, almost net zero-carbon one-bedroom flats. The building – which will house homeless single parents and young people with support needs – is to be named after Transform’s former Chief Executive Paul Mitchell who held the organisation’s reins for nearly half of its 50-year history.

Paul Mitchell (centre) attended the photoshoot and, while there, grabbed the chance to climb aboard one of the site’s diggers to get a closer look at the site. Having the new development named after him was a true honour he said and he had been surprised at how quickly the project had progressed. “We had all originally arranged to hold a conventional ground-breaking ceremony but when we met there was very little actual ground left to break!” he added.

Transform Chair Mark Austen said he was impressed by the new building’s sustainable, low-carbon credentials which include an EPC ‘A’ rating, all electric flats, an innovative fire suppression misting system which limits water damage and solar panels installed on the roof. “This may not be a ground-breaking in the traditional sense, but in my mind, we are still ‘breaking ground’ as this is Transform’s first ever modular construction with these flats being built offsite and then lifted in,” he said.

Former Transform CEO Paul Mitchell on a digger at Mitchell Court ground breaking
Paul Mitchell on one of the diggers

Sales Manager at Rollalong Nigel Allen said it was the first development they had delivered for Transform and they were delighted to be collaborating with the supported housing provider. “One of the advantages of modular offsite construction is it’s considerably faster to build than it is to build using traditional methods,” he explained. “The modules themselves are scheduled to be installed next month and we expect this to be completed within just three days.”                       

Transform’s Head of Housing & Support Natalie Murphy said that as well as the flats being energy-efficient – which would help clients manage their living costs – they would provide good-sized homes. “They will meet the Government’s recommended space standards which is important because we are very conscious of the significant impact a spacious, well-designed home can have on people’s wellbeing – as we saw during the Covid-19 pandemic,” she said. “For the young people and lone parents who will live here, this environment will make such a positive contribution to empowering them to change their lives, so they are happier, healthier and more independent.”

Paul Mitchell on a digger with Mark Austen, Natalie Murphy and Nigel Allen, from Rollalong, at the Mitchell Court groundbreaking
L to r: Paul Mitchell, Mark Austen, Natalie Murphy and Nigel Allen

The development was also a great example of organisations working together to provide support to those in society who really needed it, Mark Austen said. It has the generous support of Reigate and Banstead Borough Council alongside a grant from Homes England. In addition, funding from charitable bodies the Wolfson Foundation (£50,000) and the Peter Harrison Foundation (£23,000) has also been secured for the scheme. “We are so grateful for all the support we’ve received without which we could not have made this project happen,” Mr Austen added.

Transform appointed consultants Playle & Partners LLP to assist with procurement and project management of the scheme. It is scheduled to be completed later this year with the aim of clients occupying the flats by the autumn.

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