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New boss for controversial John Lewis private rental initiative

A new director of property has been named by the John Lewis Partnership, to lead its controversial Build To Rent initiative.

Martin Gafsen will take up the post on November 13; he was property and facilities director for the Royal Mail Group for 16 years, with responsibilities for construction and development.

Before that he was a solicitor.


A year ago John Lewis announced a £500m multi-decade joint venture with global investment company Abrdn to deliver around 1,000 new homes across three locations. 

In July the company announced that it had submitted planning applications for two Build To Rent sites at West Ealing and Bromley in London. Initial plans for a vacant warehouse site in Reading were to be brought forward later this year.  

However last month the Daily Telegraph claimed that plans to construct over 400 flats above the West Ealing Waitrose could cost far more than its worth on paper.

Planning documents seen by the Telegraph revealed the development could result in a negative return of £57m for the business. Property consultant Quod, which carried out the early analysis, was quoted as claiming the “financial viability of the scheme is extremely challenging”.

The newspaper suggested that John Lewis’ scheme would be worth just £183m based on present-day values, but cost roughly £240m to carry out.

No mention of that was made by Gafsen in his public statement taking up the new job.

Instead he says: “It’s a great privilege to join the Partnership, home to two of the UK’s most loved brands. With an extensive and valuable property portfolio, we have an important role to play in ensuring it continues delivering value for the long term benefit of customers and Partners for generations to come.”


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