We acknowledge at Valleys to Coast that we have not bounced back from COVID as fast as we wanted and needed to when it comes to our immediate priorities, like repairs and dealing with complaints.
And because repairs and maintenance is our core service as an organisation, and our customers are at the heart of everything we do, we have decided to dedicate the resource needed to prioritising and amplifying our safe and happy homes project immediately.
This is in the shape of a Turnaround Team, led by our Corporate Director of Development and Growth Darrin Davies, and made up of experts brought together from across the business to get things up to speed. As a One Team organisation, all Valleys to Coast colleagues are committed to coming together to get what work needs to be done, done. As swiftly, and to the highest standards possible.
Our Finance Team have secured a £35 million loan from bLend Funding PLC, which will act as low-cost funding to refinance expensive existing debt. This will help Valleys to Coast meet its 10 year Corporate Plan objectives by ensuring its financing is sustainable, and its investment in homes and communities maximised.
The lender’s first ever ‘social bond’ will partly be used to pay off old legacy debt currently at a much higher interest rate. This will reduce loan interest payments, increasing funds for the organisation’s development programme which will then be able to deliver more new homes.
Valleys to Coast’s Finance Team is led by Corporate Director of Finance, Governance, Strategy and Performance Claire Marshall, who explained how the 34 year loan with a fixed interest cost of just 2.45% will help maintain the organisation’s strong financial profile whilst achieving its vision to meet the need for truly affordable social housing.
“With Wales emerging from a pandemic, housing associations will become more important to local communities than ever before. Which is why this funding is so vital, as it allows us to continue providing homes and places where our customers feel happy and safe.”
CEO Joanne Oak said the loan was a great achievement by the Finance Team supported by Centrus. “Through strategic partnerships, we have secured long-term sustainable finance to support and deliver our 10 year ambitions laid out in our Corporate Plan. This will allow us to carry on providing a high-quality service wholly dedicated to our customers.”
Paul Stevens, Executive Director and Head of Affordable Housing at Centrus commented how Valleys to Coast had joined an ‘exclusive club’ of Welsh housing associations that have been able to access bLEND.
“It represents an excellent funding outcome, but importantly also provides further external endorsement of the strength and quality of Valleys to Coast. Centrus was delighted to provide independent financial advice and assurance, and the team at Valleys to Coast should be very proud of what has been achieved”.
bLEND’s CEO, Piers Williamson, added how converting bonds into social bonds reinforces the focus on social impact. “It’s great to see the knock on effect on pricing, which enables us to secure a great rate for associations like Valleys to Coast who do such important work for their communities.”
There will be a warm welcome in Bridgend’s North Cornelly this month for some very special feathered summer visitors: Swifts. And it’s hoped by those behind a nesting box initiative (Valleys to Coast, Glamorgan Bird Club and Bridgend Local Nature Partnership), that the birds will establish a permanent summer home and increase in numbers.
On this year's International Day for Biological Diversity, the theme, 'we’re part of the solution', asks us to consider how we can live in harmony with nature and help to prevent biodiversity loss. Valleys to Coast is committed to promoting biodiversity across our estates and recognises how we as an organisation can be a part of the solution by supporting initiatives like this.
Howard Driver (left), and Strinda Davies (right)
Swifts make a remarkable 14,000 mile return trip to the same breeding area every year from Africa around this time, and remain loyal to their partners. But they are in drastic decline due to the loss of traditional nesting sites. Which is why a new partnership was formed to research where to replace lost nesting sites, with six suitably positioned nest boxes now installed on the Marlas Estate.
“Sadly, Swifts are a declining species,” Glamorgan Bird Club Trustee, Strinda Davies, explained. “As a charity committed to the conservation and enjoyment of birds in our area of South Wales, we are delighted to be working with Valleys to Coast for the benefit of these majestic summer migrants.”
The project was the result of diligent monitoring by bird club members, of breeding Swift populations in the communities of Kenfig Hill, Pyle and North Cornelly over the past few years as part of the RSPB UK wide Swift-mapping project.
Photo by Tim Collier
Swifts arriving around this time will depart in August for their wintering grounds in the African Congo. They spend most of their life on the wing, landing only once they enter a nest site. They live for around five years, yet only reach breeding age at three to four years of age.
“Swift numbers are in drastic decline due to the loss of their habitual nest sites,” laments Jess Hartley, Coordinator of Bridgend Local Nature Partnership. “But we are very pleased to be able to financially support this initiative to ensure the nest boxes were installed safely by Glamorgan Bird Club volunteers, using their expertise and specialist knowledge.”
Andy Jones, Community Housing Team Leader with Valleys to Coast, said:
“Being the manager of properties in the Marlas Estate, Valleys to Coast is pleased to support this initiative as part of our commitment to supporting biodiversity, enabling our residents to experience a variety of wildlife on their doorstep.
“This past year has highlighted the importance and benefits of conservation projects like these. And at Valleys to Coast we know that partnerships like these can enable us to achieve even more in our community, creating safe and happy places for people and nature alike. We look forward to future initiatives.”