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Development Finance Support Vital for Property Developer


“We feared the worst when Covid hit so Paragon’s support was vital”

Aaron Stowell’s property development company Elmridge was part way through construction of The Orchard, a three-home luxury development in the heart of Chester, when the Covid-19 outbreak hit the UK’s shores.  

Like many SME developers, Aaron’s initial reaction was one of worry and confusion. “We didn’t know whether we were going to be able to complete the project,” he said. “When the Government announced the lockdown, my wife and I had a serious conversation about which bedroom at her parents’ house we’d have to live in as we’d have to sell ours. There were some dark and gloomy days.”  

One of Aaron’s primary concerns was the financing for the project and whether the bank would call in the loan. Elmridge had secured a £1.5 million finance package to assist with the scheme with Paragon Development Finance.  

A call with Paragon’s Relationship Director Mick Howard alleviated his fears.  

He explained: “Paragon was supportive straight away. Mick phoned us and was instantly reassuring. He told us to carry on what we were doing, that Paragon wanted us to see the project through to completion and that they would support us to do that. That was a major call because at that point nobody knew how long this thing was going to last for and for how long the site would be closed.”  

He added: “That call was a major milestone for the project and gave us the confidence and impetus to see it through to completion. It was an extremely stressful time and there were so many unknowns, but having the confidence of Mick and Paragon meant so much.” 

Elmridge is a growing developer founded by Aaron and his business partner Richard Whiting, who he met at school in Manchester. Incorporated in 2014, it specialises in smaller-scale, high-end schemes (“We develop the type of homes that we would want to live in,” explains Aaron). Like most young development companies, it had coped with the usual issues SMEs face - cashflow worries, suppliers and tradespeople – but a global pandemic wasn’t on the worry list.   

But the business adapted, coped and survived. As soon as they could, Aaron and a small team formed a bubble and moved onto the site to continue with the construction work. That meant living away from his family, who are based in St Albans, for a long period of time and long days.  

“At the start it was just the small team,” he said. “It was tough, mentally and physically. It was hard work and it was difficult being away from my wife and children, particularly given the restrictions everybody was living under. There were periods of doubt. 

“However, over time more and more of our tradespeople were able to come back to work and the project really started to gain momentum. Despite all the issues – and nobody could have predicted a global pandemic – we are delighted with the project.”  

The result of all the hard work is The Orchard, a development of three luxury six-bed homes located within a gated community opposite the King’s School and within walking distance to Chester city centre. One of the properties has already sold above its anticipated value, another is under offer and there is strong interest in the third, which recently featured in an episode of the Real Housewives of Cheshire.  

It has given Aaron and his business partner the confidence to grow Elmridge further. “Although The Orchard was a tough project, we have learnt so much that we can take forward and implement into future developments,” he says. “We are looking at new opportunities at the moment and there’s some interesting prospects that are closer to home in the South East.”   

Aaron says he wouldn’t hesitate to work with Paragon again. “You look for a finance provider that is committed and that knows the market. From my experience, Paragon excels in both areas. Looking at Mick specifically, he has been there and done it; he knows what he is doing. And in moments of crisis, that calm support is very much appreciated.” 

Paragon Bank PLC is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Registered in England number 05390593. Registered office 51 Homer Road, Solihull, West Midlands B91 3QJ. Paragon Bank PLC is registered on the Financial Services Register under the firm reference number 604551