Nobody could have foreseen the catastrophic fall-out that ensued when Covid arrived in the UK. The difficult, but essential, decision to close our sites was made as the country went into its first lockdown and we hastily made plans to protect our people, partners and supply chains to safeguard the care and residential projects that we were working so hard to deliver.
With a skeleton staff in the office and others working from home, our very determined teams were able to collaborate and plan effectively and help our homebuyers move with minimal disruption. Thankfully, two months later and following government guidance, we resumed our construction activity with sufficient safety measures in place to welcome househunters back to our marketing suites and show homes on our sites.
Adapting to the Covid crisis has had its benefits; our remote and on-site teams are working seamlessly and feedback from prospective purchasers has shown our ‘viewing by appointment’ enjoy the extra time and personal attention they receive when visiting. At North Stoneham Park, our Sales teams have worked tirelessly and, since that first lockdown, have been delighted that a record number of homebuyers have made the Park their home.
Our contracting teams have also excelled themselves – despite having to work in full compliance with the constraints of Covid safety measures, we’ve continued to deliver hundreds of units at the Park and have secured contracts worth over £75 million from some of the remarkable partners we’re so proud to join forces with.
We’ve also been mindful of others in our community during lockdown. We donated surplus PPE to Rowans Hospice and gave over £1000 in Sainsbury’s vouchers to Romsey Foodbank to help families who needed support during the lockdown and summer holidays.
Despite the challenges our construction sites faced, we were delighted when our high-end 68-bed Botleigh Grange care home and Westergate Extra Care projects were certified ‘Excellent’ by the Considerate Constructors Scheme. We were also presented with a Healthy and Safety Excellence Award by HCS Safety.
Our partnerships have flourished too. This year we’ve been appointed to the Hyde Housing Main Contractor Framework and announced as one of just nine contractors to be awarded a place on respected later living operator, Inspired Villages’ South East Partner Group. The Highwood brand has been synonymous with exemplary retirement and care schemes for over 30 years and we’re excited to continue meeting the increasing demand for prestigious, considered later-living communities with this formidable partner.
As 2020 draws to a close, we’re now looking forward to the New Year with renewed positivity. The good news that we’ve secured a number of high-profile sites across the south coast that amount to some 1500 units along with several care homes means that our construction teams will continue to deliver the award-winning projects that has seen Highwood grow as effectively as it has.
Thanks also to the expertise of our Planning gurus, Martin Hawthorne and Jon Bray, who celebrate their first full year with us, we now have a raft of planning consents that received ‘overwhelming support’ from planners under our belt. These include a suite of projects at North Stoneham Park – the Old Mansion site, which received a design award shortlisting, our Close Care Retirement Community and Phase 9 schemes, not to mention our exciting plans for our Horndean development, which will all see fruition in 2021.
In a year that’s seen many exciting appointments and promotions, we’ve been delighted to recognise the long service anniversaries of our team members, Andrew White, Justin Blay and John Gale who have been with Highwood for 15 years. Indeed, I’m very proud of my own appointment as Managing Director of Highwood, which I joined in 2004 as Project Manager, and that of Phil Prosser who was promoted to the board as Business Development Director.
This really is an organisation that continues to give back and, it’s fitting that, in these last days before Christmas, we’ve donated £10,000 to Trinity Winchester, a charity that supports the homeless and vulnerable.
The generosity we’ve been able to share and the successes we’ve achieved throughout 2020, one of the most tumultuous years in our history, has undoubtedly been down to the supreme efforts of the Highwood family and its ability to embrace change and work together to keep our plans intact, our projects on track and our buyers moving.
On behalf of all us, we’d like to wish you all a safe, happy Christmas and a New Year that will see us all returning to normality once again.