Chief executive appointed at DfE’s new £2bn free school property company

Chief executive appointed at DfE's new £2bn free school property company

Property management consultancy boss Lara Newman MBE has been announced as the chief executive of the Department for Education’s new £2 billion free school land company.

Schools Week revealed in July the Department for Education had finalised plans to set up LocatEd – an “arm’s length” company that will be given a £2 billion warchest to speed up the purchase and development of free school sites.

The company, classed as a non-departmental public body and wholly-owned by the DfE, will become one of the largest land purchasers in the country.

Newman, who was awarded an MBE last year for her service as a property adviser on the free schools programme, has been announced as the company’s chief executive.

This will improve the experience for free school trusts

She said LocatEd will work directly with landowners, agents and developers to “secure new free school sites whilst ensuring the best value for the taxpayer”.

“We understand the scale of the challenge and the property landscape. LocatED has the expertise and will operate at pace to negotiate with multiple partners across the private and public sector.”

According to the New School Network’s website, Newman has been acting as interim managing director of the DfE’s “shadow property company” since July 2015.

Newman was previously a board director at Cleanslate, a development and property consulting company. Prior to that she was managing director of Navigant Consulting, working on “complex capital investment projects for government education capital programmes”, the government said.

The LocatEd role was previously advertised with a basic salary of £157,000, plus performance bonuses.

Michael Strong has been appointed as the company’s board chairman. He has 15 years’ experience as chairman of property consultancy firm CBRE and is a non-executive director of NHS Property Services, a similar PropCo set up by the NHS to handle its surplus land.

Schools Week has regularly reported how land issues, particularly in London, were causing scores of schools to delay opening or be scrapped.

The National Audit Office has also criticised the government’s free school site spend – with four sites costing more than £30 million each.

Peter Lauener, chief executive of the Education Funding Agency, said the company will “improve the experience for free school trusts, for many of whom finding a site is the main challenge to opening a school”.

“The establishment of LocatED places this challenge in the hands of a specialist team of commercial property professionals.”

Academies minister Lord Nash (pictured right) added the company will help the government keep pace in creating 600,000 new school places by 2021.

Other board members include Phil Ellis, previously client portfolio director at Aviva Investors, Jayne Maclennan, group director of Property FirstGroup, Julian Rudd-Jones, managing director of Kajima Partnerships and Kajima Properties, and Caroline Tolhurst, a charter surveyor and compliance officer.