We catch up with Jonathan Cox to discuss his career and work in the property sector
Jonathan, can you please tell us a bit about your career and current role at Anthony Collins?
I am one of the social housing sector partners; part of a multi-disciplinary housing sector team. My background is property law but my role at Anthony Collins has always been in the space where property, regulatory and housing operations mix; it has been an area full of a wide variety of instructions. My current role is to co-ordinate our work in the sector and be head of our new Manchester office.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the property sector in the Midlands?
The key issue is whether the “Brexit downturn” experienced in the south east will spread to the Midlands; if that results in a slowing down of residential development activity then for our social housing sector clients this would mean in a decrease in the section 106 “pipeline”.
The other related difficulty is the challenge of delivering the West Midlands Combined Authority’s “Housing Deal”; the Government is investing a lot in the area and the property sector in particular – the headline figure is £350M; the region must make sure it delivers.
If you could improve anything in the region what would it be?
Long term thinking; we have land in the West Midlands where people don’t want to live; we must get to a place where we are bold and all stakeholders; local authorities, housing associations, Homes England; developers and funders combine to make those places desirable – I think the Housing Deal is a big step in doing just that.
What are the two most rewarding or most high-profile project that you’ve been involved in?
With Anthony Collins I have been proud to be involved in a lot of high-profile projects. A current project is working with the National Housing Federation and its members in developing the Voluntary Right to Buy Pilot for the Midlands – since it is voluntary the legislative framework that exists for the “usual” right to buy wasn’t available so it was technically difficult. Our advice covered policy, planning, financial services, land law, rent charges and more; – it’s a £200M project that will change the lives of tenants and their families in 3,000 homes and builds on the national pilot I lead on in 2016.
Building wise it’s difficult to single out one - but 15 years on, the redevelopment of Lee Bank – a joint venture between Birmingham City Council, Optima Community Association and Crest creating a new district called Park Central transformed an area dubbed by its residents “the worse slum in Europe” –has stood the test of time.
In your view, what sets Anthony Collins apart?
We define what we do at Anthony Collins through our social purpose – improving lives, communities and society. Myself and my colleagues have joined Anthony Collins to do just that. We work in specific sectors all of which are focussed on those outcomes - it means we are on the same page as our clients and together we can produce life changing results.
The firm opened a new Manchester office in January; how are things progressing?
As much as better serving our North West clients, the office is about giving lawyers in the Greater Manchester area an opportunity to work for a social purpose law firm; Manchester has a proud history of social activism and we are talking to a number of lawyers interested in joining us; so far we have had lawyers from Trowers & Hamlins, Barnardos and Fiona Bruce join us; we’re looking forward to having a well-known NW Social Housing Property Partner join us in July to head our Social Housing property team.
Finally, what’s the best thing about your job?
Working somewhere where I can make a positive contribution with my skills.