Knowsley Housing Trust, a 13,500 property housing association base in the North West, had the vision of creating a social business that could deliver wider social and economic regeneration using a more collaborative model.  
What was our role?

We worked with them to deliver:

  • The formation of the first non-registered parent of a housing association in the country with a wider social purpose;
  • A bespoke commercial trading vehicle, Vivark, that now houses a full repairs and maintenance team which services both internal Group customers and external customers. Vivark already turns over in excess of £20m pa and is on a material growth curve;
  • A £210m refinancing with lenders to deliver greater freedoms and capacity for physical regeneration targets; and
  • A new registered charity, One Ark, with £3m funding already pledged to deliver against wide regeneration objectives. The focus for One Ark is to support and fund small scale enterprises to assist with meeting economic and social regeneration targets.
How did we add value?

The Group employs 550 employees and the different phases involved transferring or restructuring the employment arrangements for more than 300 of them. The Group now has a £70m overall turnover, using a collaborative, outward facing approach.

Because First Ark was the first non-registered Parent for a social housing group in the country, there were some novel hurdles that needed to be overcome. ACS had to navigate a complex landscape of social housing regulation, charity law, the EU procurement regime and employment & pensions law whilst delivering the overall objectives. 

Our work on group structures and mergers, and the approach we take to delivering these projects means we build strong and lasting relationships. We continue to advise all of the housing groups above in relation to their strategic and corporate operations, and their diversification plans.


The provision of specialist advice, practical guidance and support through what was a complex project involving all our boards, the HCA, executive team and many staff was a key factor in realising the objectives behind the establishment of the group structure. Anthony Collins Solicitors remains a key partner for the Group regularly providing insight, advice and support across a range of matters.
Bob Taylor, Group Chief Executive, First Ark Group.