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Former housing association chief executive dies

The former chief executive of Liverpool housing association CDS died last month after a short illness.

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Catherine Meredith
Catherine Meredith
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Former housing association chief executive dies #ukhousing

A moving obituary for Catherine Meredith MBE, former chief executive of CDS #ukhousing

Catherine Meredith MBE died on 27 November. Her funeral was held this morning.

She spent 25 years at the organisation, which later became Plus Housing and then Plus Dane Housing, after helping to establish it in 1975.

She had previously studied architecture at the University of Nottingham and had worked in the planning department at Liverpool City Council.

Under her leadership, CDS gained a reputation for a strong commitment to tenant participation, and focused on involving tenants and community groups in developments.

Ms Meredith retired from the organisation in 2000, but continued to work in several non-executive roles. From 2003 to 2009, she served as an independent non-executive director and member of the audit committee at the National Energy Savings Trust.

More recently she was chair of trustees at the Westbourne Hall Community Trust, where her work helped to establish a viable and thriving resource for the West Kirby community.

Obituary written by Plus Dane

“Catherine Meredith was a woman on a mission – to ensure that the people who needed housing most also had control of that housing and their environment. And in pursuing her professional goal, she became an inspirational leader, helping people to develop, and unleash their potential.

“Before starting her own career, Catherine followed her interest in the built environment by being one of only a few women to study architecture at Nottingham University. On qualifying, she went into the planning department at Liverpool City Council.

“Catherine believed new kinds of housing organisations were needed to be the key developers in a new vision for Liverpool. Drawn by the emerging co-op movement, she set up CDS (Co-operative Development Services) in 1975, and became a pioneer of co-operative housing and encouraging a wider range of ways tenants could be involved and lead.

“The CDS mission statement in 1975 read: ‘The fundamental principle behind all CDS’s activities is the development of different types of democratically controlled housing for people in need. The principles of tenant control are reflected in both CDS’s structure and its approach to its work.’ It is a statement that holds true today.

“By 1979 CDS was spawning both a raft of work in deprived communities in Liverpool 8 and a whole new way of developing housing co-ops on Merseyside. The organisation focused on building homes and estates completely from scratch with groups of local people buying land, learning new skills such as financial control of large scale building schemes, or how to choose an architect they wanted to work with.

Under Catherine’s leadership and direction, the CDS co-ops blossomed, but not just in Liverpool 8; by the 1990s Knowsley had the highest ratio of new build co-ops per head of population in Europe.

“Catherine was building a movement that gave local people the ability to fundamentally take charge of their own lives.

“Alongside the co-ops and work with their own tenants, CDS – now recognised as a beacon for tenant participation – started to be asked to act as an advisor to local councils who wanted to follow the same principles. At the other end of the scale they were sought out but local committees angry with what was happening in their area who wanted to take control.

“One of Catherine’s proudest moments for the organisation was when CDS was the first housing association to get the Investors In People Award in 1995 – real recognition of her determination to invest in her team.

“I could go on and on; her list of achievements is too long to mention in such a brief time and too deep in their meaning and impact for others to be done justice in a few short words. But suffice to say in her 25 years at CDS Catherine was a powerful force; a force for good and a force focused very clearly on supporting communities and making sure that democratic control was seen as a right.”

CDS was one of the organisations that merged to become Plus Housing and would later become Plus Dane Housing

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