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Heart of Cumbria Ltd announces appointment of Non-Executive Directors

The commercial arm of Eden District Council – the Heart of Cumbria Ltd has announced the appointment of two non-Executive Directors.

Stephen Lancaster non-Executive Director of Heart of Cumbria LtdStephen Lancaster and Gareth Owens join the company’s Chairman Councillor John Owen MBE (Eden Development Portfolio Holder) and Councillors Gordon Nicolson OBE and Paula Breen (Eden District Council’s Resources Portfolio Holder) to make up the company’s Board of Directors.

The Heart of Cumbria Company was formed in December 2016 as a separate legal entity to the Council, with the purpose of working commercially to help achieve the District Council’s corporate objective of creating more affordable housing. The company will also undertake investments in commercial and residential property to provide additional revenue to invest in Council services, to meet an anticipated shortfall in funding from central Government by 2020.

The Chairman of the Heart of Cumbria Ltd’s Board of Directors, Councillor John Owen MBE, said: “I am absolutely delighted to welcome Stephen Lancaster and Gareth Owens to the company’s board. They have excellent skills and experience in the housing, land and legal sectors that will prove invaluable in helping the Heart of Cumbria Ltd to achieve its aims in the months ahead.

"Creating and running a commercial company is new way of working for Eden District Council, which affords us exciting opportunities to work with developers and land owners to deliver much need affordable housing, create higher paid jobs and seek opportunities to generate revenue for the Council to support the services residents’ value.

"Stephen Lancaster (aged 49) is the Managing Director of Penrith Farmers and Kidd’s PLC and has worked in the local land and property sector for the past 25 years. Stephen said: “I am delighted to be part of this new venture and am excited to be working with the Directors of The Heart of Cumbria Ltd to maximise the opportunities this new commercial company can bring to Eden.”

Gareth Owens Heart of Cumbria Ltd Non-Executive Director.Gareth Owens (aged 46) has 25 years of experience primarily working for local authorities in a legal capacity. He has specialist skills in helping deliver projects including housing for local authority trading companies. Gareth said: “I am very pleased to have been appointed to the Board of Heart of Cumbria and look forward to trying to make a positive difference in Eden.”

The Heart of Cumbria Ltd has an outline business plan that has been agreed by its Directors and approved by the District Council, who are the company’s shareholders. The aims of the company outlined in the business plan are to:

  • To support the provision of affordable housing;
  • To support the creation and generation of growth and higher paid jobs within the District; or
  • The Company provide a minimum of 3% return on any Council investment.

Eden District Council has agreed to loan a sum of £1,000,000 in its 2017/18 capital programme to the Heart of Cumbria Ltd. This funding will be allocated in the following ways:

  • £500,000 to be made for the provision of affordable homes which will be purchased by the Company, owned by the Company and managed by it. The Company in return would pay 3% of monies drawn down when income is received in any future financial year.
  • £500,000 to be made available to purchase commercial and/or residential investment property which once purchased, a 3% return on capital invested will be repaid to the Council.

The areas of activity that the company is seeking to explore include:

  • Buying and managing housing for people in need, for people who are key workers and also market housing
  • Buying and managing commercial property and/or residential property generating an income above the threshold of 3%
  • Development schemes involving non-Council owned land
  • Developing schemes involving Council land
  • Renewable energy schemes

For more information about the Heart of Cumbria Ltd email:


Notes to Editors:  

Eden District Council allocated an initial £10,000 to help set up Heart of Cumbria Ltd, including the recruitment of Non-Executive Directors.

Short bios of Non-Executive Directors:

Stephen Lancaster - A member of an Eden farming family, Stephen Lancaster was brought up in Culgaith, near Penrith, Cumbria. He was educated at St. Bees School before studying at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester. Early in his career he worked for Story Construction, Carlisle, and went on to become a Divisional Director of Persimmon Homes for 8 years.

He is currently Managing Director of Penrith Farmers and Kidds PLC. Stephen has a broad base of property knowledge and experience in the operation of PLC’s. He has been a Chartered Surveyor for over 25 years, and specialises in residential land development. Stephen lives in Culgaith with his wife, Judith, and the couple have two children.

Gareth Owens - A barrister by profession Gareth has worked in local government for 22 years at four different councils as far apart as Wiltshire, the West Midlands and Wales. He has been a chief officer for 13 years and on the management team for three of those councils. He has also served at board level on two national bodies.

He has been responsible for managing a range of services including homelessness prevention and the management of a Council stock of 6,000 houses. He was instrumental in the setting up and governance of a number of wholly owned companies at his current council including a housing management company. He has also been involved in major capital projects such as an Energy from Waste plant in Deeside, North Wales. However, some of his proudest achievements to date have been in improving housing and housing services and he relishes the chance to build on that work through Heart of Cumbria.

His private pursuits include music, reading and walking. He lives in the country with his partner, two dogs and two horses.