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New designate leaders announced for proposed Colne merger

Tue 07 January 2020

New designate leaders have been appointed to oversee the proposed merger of Colne Housing and Braintree-based Greenfields Community Housing.

In July 2019, it was announced that Colne, a 3,000-home association based in Colchester, was exploring co-creating a new organisation with Greenfields, which has almost 9,000 homes.

Greenfields was selected after Colne issued a pioneering proposition asking others to partner with them to create long-term solutions to the housing challenges in the East of England.

The Boards of Essex-based Colne Housing and Greenfields Community Housing have now created a top designate team. A full business case to merge will be presented to both Boards in the Spring. If this is approved, these designate roles will become permanent when the new organisation is created in July 2020.

Should the merger go ahead, Emma Palmer will be the Chief Executive of the new organisation, which will be formed with a new strategy, values and brand to be the largest Community Gateway Association in England.

Sara Thakkar was successful in her application to be the organisation’s Deputy Chief Executive. She will be responsible for growth and ambition of the new organisation, building on the work Colne started in 2016 to create a bigger, better, bolder housing association for the East of England.

Hattie Llewelyn-Davies has been selected Chair designate of the shadow board and Dale Butcher is the Vice Chair.

Emma Palmer, currently Chief Executive of Greenfields, said: “Greenfields and Colne are proposing that we could achieve more by working with our residents and communities to provide affordable homes and modern services tailored to their needs. Together we would make a great team.”

Sara Thakkar, currently Chief Executive of Colne, said: “After working closely with Greenfields, residents, our staff and board members over the last year, I am really pleased to be able to deliver our ambitious shared vision. Our organisations’ strengths will combine to complement each other as we co-create a new Community Gateway Association.”

If the merger goes ahead, it would enable a five-year £500m investment in new affordable homes and greater opportunities to strengthen the ‘resident voice’ and empower communities to thrive.

The chief executives of both housing associations have written to residents to let them know that their homes and services are not affected by the proposal.

Hattie Llewelyn-Davies is the current Colne Chair and Chair of PA Housing. She was awarded an OBE for services to homeless people in 2004. She joined Colne in September 2017 and was named Sunday Times Non-Executive Director (NED) of the Year in 2018.

Dale Butcher joined Greenfields as its Chair in May 2017. His areas of expertise include strategy, mergers and acquisitions and business transformation. Dale is currently an adviser to the Emil Frey Group of Switzerland (2012) and a Trustee of the Enthusiasm Trust Derby (2014).

Emma Palmer joined Greenfields in October 2018 from Flagship Group. Her extensive career in housing includes a year as Managing Director of Suffolk Heritage, a variety of Board positions and work for organisations including Ipswich Borough Homes, Moat and Estuary Housing Association.

Sara Thakkar has worked as a chief executive for 14 years, joining Colne in February 2015. She has been chair of a range of organisations including TPAS and is currently chair of the National Housing Federation East Region Leaders’ Forum and Colchester Business Enterprise Agency (COLBEA).


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New designate leaders announced for proposed Colne merger

Top team: Sara Thakkar (left) and Emma Palmer

New designate leaders announced for proposed Colne merger

Hattie Llewelyn-Davies