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| 2 minutes read

Social housing veteran Andrew Cowan set to step down from the Partnership after 30 years

Today we announce that Andrew Cowan, Head of Social Housing, will step down from the Partnership to become a Consultant at the firm on 1 April. He will hand over the leadership of the firm’s corporate and regulatory social housing work to Partners Matthew Waters and Gemma Bell.

Andrew joined Devonshires in 1990, becoming an Equity Partner three years later. During his career he has been instrumental in our growth, seeing Devonshires swell from a team of 30 in the early 90’s to a team of over 300 today, with four offices operating nationally. 

Andrew has been at the forefront of the evolution of the sector as it grappled with bank failures, borrowing and changes to the structure of the sector. He has also been instrumental in the advent of for-profit housing associations and many mergers across England and Wales. He cites as some of his proudest achievements the successful turnaround of Ujima, Genesis and Swan, and most of all the enduring commitment and focus of Devonshires as a firm to the sector. 

Andrew says: “The social housing landscape has changed immeasurably from when I first started out, with the demands placed on providers having increased exponentially. 

“When I look back, I’ve been blessed to work in such a thriving and engaged sector, with its constant challenges. Despite these, I am positive about the role the sector can play in society. I’ve enjoyed my work immensely and will remain involved through my consultancy work with Devonshires and various non-executive posts, including as a trustee for HACT (the Housing Associations’ Charitable Trust) and as a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Housing.

“Finally, I want to say how reassured I am to be leaving the team in the capable hands of two stand-out lawyers in Gemma Bell and Matthew Waters. They are both phenomenal lawyers and leaders who understand the needs of the sector and are committed to it. I know they will continue to do a brilliant job for the sector as it continues to evolve.”

Corporate & Governance specialist Matthew Waters joined Devonshires from Bevan Brittan in 2021 bringing with him significant experience in corporate structuring, joint ventures, group reorganisations, estate regeneration, public and private partnerships for large scale housing and regeneration projects, structuring of development deals and funding. His advisory work includes supporting local authorities on the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) and wider housing regulatory matters, and registered providers on corporate and governance matters. 

Matthew’s arrival three years ago was closely followed by that of Gemma Bell and her team from Pennington Manches Cooper which paved the way for the firm’s office opening in Birmingham. 

Gemma is considered a ‘go to’ lawyer for social housing Governance advice and was a contributor to the National Housing Federation’s latest version of Model Rules, the sector’s most widely used constitutional document. 

Gemma specialises in advising housing associations on large and frequently innovative corporate projects including mergers and acquisitions, group consolidations, joint ventures, de-mergers and stock transfers. She provides governance and strategic advice for social enterprises, housing associations, local authorities and charities and regularly delivers governance training to third sector organisations. With significant experience in incorporating a variety of legal structures, she acts on charitable conversions and on establishing and collapsing group structures.

Philip Barden, Senior Partner, says: “I have worked with Andrew for 30 years. He is a great lawyer, understanding what clients want, what can be achieved and delivering the desired outcome. He has worked exceptionally hard and delivered great outcomes for the social housing sector and has been instrumental in driving growth at Devonshires. We thank Andrew for all he has done and are looking forward to continuing our work together.” 

Gemma and Matthew will continue to work closely with our social housing leaders, Donna McCarthy (Housing Management and Property Litigation), Jonathan Corris and Triya Maicha (Real Estate and Projects), Mark London (Construction), Julian Barker and Gary Grigor (Banking and Capital Markets), and Sharon Kirkham and Chris Drabble (Securitisation).