This year marks the 50th anniversary of the pioneering housing association now known as North Star. Chief executive, Angela Lockwood, talks to PETER BARRON

THE ink may be fading a little but, as she leafs back through old board papers from 50 years ago, Angela Lockwood is struck by how relevant they remain.

“Nothing’s changed really,” says the miner’s daughter, who became chief executive of North Star Housing. “It’s the same ethos – the same determination to make a difference.”
This year marks the 50th anniversary of a pioneering organisation that started out as the Endeavour Housing Association in 1974 and continues today as North Star Housing. The name may have changed, but the values have never faltered, and the ambition remains the same.
The objectives detailed in an early annual report, unearthed by Angela (pictured below), state: “We are there to provide housing for people in need, to have close and sensitive contact with tenants, and to manage homes in a responsible way.”

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And an underlying statement in the 1970s report proclaims: “Housing is not just bricks and mortar. It has social effects – it impinges on the environment and the community.”

For half a century, it’s an ethos that’s been consistent – and undeniably bold.

“It’s about having the courage to have a go, to dare to be different,” declares Angela, who has announced she will be stepping down from her role as CEO in the summer.

“It’ll be a wrench, but it feels like the right time to let someone else take it on to the next stage of the journey.”

That journey stemmed from an idea in 1973 when the Rev. John Williams, in his role as social responsibility officer for the Teesside Churches, became aware of an unfulfilled housing need in the area.

He persuaded the Teesside and District Council of Churches to consider the possibility of a Cleveland housing association and that led to the registration of the Endeavour Housing Association in August 1974. Named after legendary explorer, Captain James Cook’s ship, the first committee meeting was held a month later.

The first post was filled in January, 1975, when Kit Bartram became CEO, and half of the first year budget of £7,000 accounted for his salary.

With an expected annual income of just £1,500, the challenge was to fill the gap through donations, and the first house owned by the association was in Union Street, Middlesbrough.

With the backing of a Government grant, Endeavour bought more empty terraced housing in the town, then did the same in Stockton and Hartlepool. Building conversions were added, including schools, a convent, bank, police station and restaurant.

Endeavour opened the region’s first women’s refuge in Hartlepool, then took over the listed Webb House building, opposite Middlesbrough Railway Station, and converted it into units for people recovering from mental health problems.

Having been raised in the east Durham mining community of Murton, Angela took her first step into the housing sector when she landed a temporary contract to become Sunderland City Council’s first female rent collector since the war.

After taking a permanent rent collector’s role with Home Group – the country’s largest housing association at the time – she studied for the Chartered Institute of Housing qualification and became area manager.

After 11 years with Home Group, Angela joined Endeavour as housing manager in 1996, going on to become a director and deputy chief executive as the association’s influence spread to County Durham.

The opportunity arose to take on some former mining cottages in Evenwood, followed by the launch of a sheltered housing scheme in Barnard Castle. Then, when Teesdale District Council chose Endeavour as its preferred partner to invest in a stock of 1,000 houses, the Teesdale Housing Association was born.

It was at that point that a parent company was required, and the name North Star was chosen, reflecting its guiding role in helping lost people to a safe place.

Angela became chief executive in 2009 – one of only three CEOs the organisation has had in 50 years – and its growth continued. Darlington Housing Association joined in 2017 and three years later it was decided to consolidate the group under the single banner of North Star.

The portfolio has gone on to include:

• A growing stock of more than 4,000 houses.

• Five women’s refuges.

• Schemes for people with learning disabilities and mental health problems.

• Accommodation for people recovering from addictions, rough sleepers, and young people leaving the care system.

• A scheme for women with complex needs.

• ‘Extra Care For Older People’ – 50 units in Stockton, catering for the older generation.

“From its inception in 1974, it was always an organisation rooted in the community,” says Angela. “It stayed close to its customers, delivered a diverse range of highly valuable services, and found solutions to highly challenging housing issues.

“We have stuck to those principles throughout the 50 years.”

Asked to identify the organisation’s biggest achievement, she immediately cites the importance of maintaining independence as a relatively small housing association in a sector that has seen multiple mergers.

“We’ve stayed independently true to our roots and, therefore, been able to continue to do some great things in the community. We’re happy to work on small projects, knowing that a collection of small things can have a big impact at the grass roots.

“If someone comes forward with a suggestion and sound reasoning, we’ll listen, and work in partnership to make it happen. A lot of the innovative stuff has been unique to North Star – we’ve been out there, setting the tone wherever we could.”

Angela is quick to acknowledge the importance of having a dedicated team and the support of a board – chaired by chartered accountant Anna Urbanowicz – that “has a high social purpose and upholds the values of the organisation”.

In securing platinum Investors in People accreditation until 2026, North Star was the UK’s highest scoring housing association. With a 93 per cent response rate on the Investors in People survey, 100 per cent trust the organisation’s leaders, 100 per cent felt trusted, and 100 per cent described it as a great place to work.

“It’s our people who really make the difference, and being able to work on such a strong foundation of trust has been key to our success,” says Angela.

However, there’s no doubt about the personal influence Angela has had as CEO, using her formative experiences of growing up during the miners’ strike and seeing deprivation in her local community.

“There was a lot of poverty but there was also deep trust, a sense of looking after each other, and the power of moving forward together,” she recalls.

“I tried to bring what I learned on the streets of east Durham into the culture of North Star, and it’s been a privilege to have been able to align my own personal values to a caring, forward-thinking organisation that wants to provide the best possible housing opportunities, so people can move on with their lives with dignity and respect.”

Whoever oversees the next chapter for North Star Housing after Angela Lockwood steps down in the summer, will inherit a proud history.

Here’s to the next 50 years.


FINDING creative solutions to social problems has been at the heart of North Star’s success. Here are some examples of its innovation:

• North Star established the region’s first women’s refuge, at Hartlepool, in the 1970s, and has gone on to add another four – at Middlesbrough, Stockton, Sunderland and Peterlee.

• Last year, North Star used a Victorian terraced house in Middlesbrough as the model for a trial, using net zero technology never used before on a domestic dwelling.

The Northern Echo: North Star Retrofit experts Nicola Dixon and Andy Moses inside the Middlesbrough house at the

• North Star launched the Hestia Project – a pioneering scheme in Middlesbrough for women with complex needs and who are at risk of homelessness.

• North Star teamed up with the Sprouts Community Food Charity to establish the Thornaby Hub – a model that provides a lifeline to local people who are struggling to make ends meet.

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• North Star was recently announced as a finalist in the Innovation category at the inaugural Housing Technology Awards in recognition of its creative use of artificial intelligence to streamline gas safety certifications.

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• The Prime Minister recently welcomed a partnership between North Star and the Upper Dales Community Land Trust to convert a former Methodist chapel, in Bainbridge, in the Yorkshire Dales, into much-needed affordable homes.

The Northern Echo: Rishi Sunak at the celebration to mark the start of the chapel conversion in Bainbridge

• In 2017, North Star became the first in the sector to achieve the Investors in People Platinum Award and went on to add two further re-accrediations.

• That was followed, in 2021, by North Star becoming the only housing association to be named Investors in People Platinum Employer of the Year.

• North Star was placed 11th in the Sunday Times Best Company Awards – at its first attempt.

• North Star has launched an Asian Elders Housing Scheme in Middlesbrough – the first in the area.

• North Star has created housing by converting pubs, a bank, police station, convent, school, restaurant, and a church.

• North Star has introduced a self-build for rent initiative in Middlesbrough.

To find out more about North Star Housing, go to:

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