A place to call home
Visiting a cluster of new properties made available to help transform the lives of young families in East Yorkshire is heart-warming to say the least.
And even more so, given its completion could have been put into jeopardy without the involvement of James Legal Solicitors.
Due to a complex dispute, the construction of these properties came to a standstill and threatened to rack up costs running into the tens of thousands of pounds which the charity funding the development – the Heron Educational Foundation – could ill afford.
However, James Legal stepped in and managed to successfully navigate the dispute, resulting in the progression of the project. As a result, the beautiful starter homes were completed on time and, vitally, on budget.
“We wouldn’t have managed to complete all six properties without the help of Simon Young at James Legal Solicitors,” said charity trustee Chris Brazier.
“Because the kinds of losses we would have incurred as a result of the downtime resulting from an issue which emerged during our project planning were significant enough to mean at least two of the properties would have had to be sacrificed.”
An ambitious mission
The Heron Educational Foundation, established in 1718, is a local charity headquartered in Humbleton, East Yorkshire, which was originally established to provide small educational grants to help the children of less-well-off families from the local area improve their prospects, by funding things like books and experiential trips.
In 2020, having built up a substantial pot of funding, the trustees decided they would like to make a bigger difference, by doing something altogether more ambitious, and set about investing almost £1 million in making six family homes available in the Holderness village of Humbleton, to families who would not normally have been able to afford their own accommodation of this quality.
They gained planning permission to construct two, three-bedroomed, semi-detached newbuild properties in the village – and also convert their picturesque old Victorian schoolhouse into three, three-bedroomed family homes. A full refurbishment of the old school master’s house completed the set of six
“It was all a bit of a new departure for us, as none of us had experience of planning and construction, but we were very excited about the prospects and everyone was keen to put the necessary work in, to bring the project to fruition,” explained Chris.
They had detailed plans drawn up and enlisted the help of professionals including surveyors, builders and project managers, and it looked like things were going swimmingly despite their relative lack of experience. However, then disaster struck due to the dispute involving a third-party contractor’s responsibilities for compliance with environmental regulations covering part of the site, and the team had no choice but to down tools and suspend the conversion and refurbishment work at the site.
Nothing would be able to happen until this issue was dealt with, resulting in additional costs of £120,000 – due to the fact that a 28-week project had to be extended by a further 24 weeks, with all the associated costs such as scaffolding, standby labour and lost economies of scale.
“The news was a disaster,” explained Chris. “It meant we had to lay off the workmen we had lined up, at a time when, post-COVID, skilled tradesmen were in short supply and we couldn’t really afford to lose them.”
Ensuring the show went on
Given the scale of the potential losses, the Heron Educational Foundation team had no option but to commission James Legal to represent them legally and try to recoup some of that.
Managing director and experienced litigator, Simon Young, worked tirelessly, liaising to ensure that the charity won appropriate compensation and, very importantly, within the shortest amount of time possible.
“We put ourselves completely in his hands,” said Chris.
“We couldn’t really afford to lose anything, the stakes were so high that how much we got back basically meant the difference between deserving families either having a new home to look forward to or not.”
Simon believed that the matter was in a good position from a legal perspective and obtained an aggressive approach from the outset.
“There is always a bit of to-ing and fro-ing as part of these kinds of negotiations,” Simon explained.
“Understandably, neither side wants to waste costs unnecessarily but it’s our job to fight for what we believe is fair, with a full view of all the circumstances. In this instance, we knew every small fraction of the amount could make the difference between a deserving family either having a new home to look forward to, or not, and I’ll admit that did inspire me to push that little bit harder.”
As a result of Simon’s tenacity, the charity recovered a significant sum, and construction was able to recommence within the desired timeframe.
The result is a cluster of smart, energy-efficient family homes, surrounded by beautiful scenery, including open green space which is also owned by the charity. It also means they have money left in the pot to continue providing smaller grants to local schoolchildren making the transition from primary to secondary school and onto university, college and employment, towards needs like extra tuition – all part of their goal of helping young people achieve their full potential and become better citizens.
“We really can’t thank Simon and the rest of the James Legal team enough,” concluded Chris.
“This was such a stressful and unanticipated situation, on top of the huge learning curve we’d already taken on, and we felt we just couldn’t let any of the families down who had applied to take one of our new properties.
“We’ve worked with legal firms for things in the past and have always been a little disappointed by the level of commitment, or lack of clarity over costs where you’re quoted £10,000 and it turns into £30,000, but dealing with Simon and the James Legal team was refreshingly different. They really went that extra mile to get us the right result and there was complete transparency over what it would cost us.
“What we’ve ended up with is a number of really high-quality houses, finished to a good specification and in keeping with the style of the village, which the families living in them are thoroughly enjoying – saying they have made an enormous difference to their lives.”
After a competitive application and selection process, the charity has let the properties to the six chosen families at a 20 per cent discount on market rental rates.
“There was an awful lot of interest in them, as was to be expected,” said Chris.
“We had lots of applications from families who were either having to live with parents because they couldn’t afford their own place or were living in sub-standard accommodation because their budget wouldn’t allow for anything better.”
“The properties have now been made available to the people the trustees judged to be those who needed them most, based on a series of criteria designed to be as fair as possible.
“We’ve had lots of great feedback from the new tenants who are delighted to get their own homes, provide better environments for their children to grow up in and also have a little extra money in their pockets to help pay for the important things in life.
“They are also joining in with village life and starting to integrate into our community. It’s happy endings like which make the whole process we’ve been through, worthwhile.”
If you’re dealing with a difficult situation, either personally or professionally, which means you could do with someone to fight your corner, look no further than Simon and the rest of James Legal’s experienced team of lawyers. They will pull out all the stops to ensure you are dealt with fairly and win you the recompense you deserve.
Just contact them via firstname.lastname@example.org or (01482) 225566 to get the ball rolling.