A former apprentice from Cheltenham, who has just secured planning approval for a development in her home town, has shown that there is more than one route into the construction industry.
Vistry's Ella Hammond has managed her first planning application
Ella Hammond, 23, joined Bovis Homes as a business administration apprentice in 2014, and has now successfully managed her first planning application – for 12 new properties in Leckhampton.
With Bovis Homes now part of Vistry Group – one of the top-five housebuilders in the country – Ella took responsibility within Vistry’s Strategic Land team for the project, meeting with Cheltenham Borough Council’s case officer and working with Leckhampton and Warden Hill parish councillors to consider key elements of the plans, including the community, accessibility, affordable housing and wildlife.
Ella, now an assistant strategic planner at Vistry, said: “I feel a huge sense of achievement that this application for 12 homes in Leckhampton, which I’ve been responsible for, has received consent. It has made me realise that I’ve come a long way from where I started and given me the determination to keep working hard in the same direction.
The former Pitville School pupil added: “Before I started with Bovis Homes, I had no idea that Strategic Land existed or even the various departments that are needed for a housebuilding business to work.
"Working as an apprentice, assisting different teams and covering the reception desk gave me the exposure to develop basic office skills and an understanding of professional etiquette. There are many ways into housebuilding and so much information online if young or older professionals want to get into the industry.
“An apprenticeship was a good route for me as I was unsure about which aspect of the business I had an interest in and this type of apprenticeship allowed me to explore the different departments.
"The industry has taught me a lot of personal and life skills such as public speaking and how to manage relationships with different stakeholders. In the industry we are in, policies and legislation are constantly changing, which means we are constantly learning, whether you’ve been working for 30 years or three.”
Ella started her Level 3 Town Planning Technical Support Apprenticeship, at Bridgwater and Taunton College, two years after she joined Bovis Homes. She attended college every two weeks and completed assignments while picking up important on-the-job experience, with support from her colleagues.
She later became strategic land administrator, and planning and development delivery co-ordinator for the housebuilder and now has the skills to project manage developments, which involves fee and budgetary management and liaising with local authorities, specialist consultants, landowners and other stakeholders.
Fiona Milden, strategic planning director at Vistry Group, said the 12 Leckhampton homes would offer much-needed affordable housing and that work on the properties is due to start next year.
“This was Ella’s first planning application, managed by her from start to finish, in coordination with the wider consultant team,” said Fiona.
“This was a small freehold piece of land that now has planning permission for 12 homes in a very desirable part of Cheltenham. She has helped to negotiate the Section 106 agreement, providing much-needed affordable housing, and has considered off-site ecological mitigation among many other factors.”