Features - Business

Looking back at the 2019 construction sector

Keith Miller, Managing Director of Westcountry homebuilder Cavanna Homes, and David Green, Head of Technical, explore the highlights from 2019 in construction and the key role infrastructure is playing in reaching the government’s ambitious housebuilding target.

Overview of 2019

The market

We’ve had very healthy sales this year, largely thanks to the excellent range of locations in Devon and Cornwall where we’ve been building, and the variety of homes on offer at each site. For example, we’ve just completed a 40 unit village scheme in East Devon, close to the seaside town of Sidmouth where the majority of homes were reserved off-plan, and in the South Hams village of Stoke Gabriel, on the banks of the River Dart, we’ve almost completed on a 53 home scheme which was launched last summer.

Attractive mortgage rates and continued government incentives for first-time buyers such as the Help-to-Buy Scheme, make new homes more attractive than buying “second hand”.

According to a recent report by the Home Builders Federation (HBF) there is growing confidence in the quality of new homes. Improvements in energy saving features, as well as versatile room layouts, are appealing to the modern homebuyer.

The Westcountry also continues to be very attractive to people looking to relocate for a change in lifestyle, as well as the more common drivers such as new jobs, marriage and expanding families.

Land supply and planning consent

There is plenty of competition for premium sites in the Westcountry but as a local homebuilder, based here for nearly a hundred years, our land buying teams are well-established, trusted and frequently the developer of choice for landowners.

Bringing forward land for development and securing outline and detailed planning consent continues to be a challenge, especially here in the Westcountry where local communities and planning committees are focused on achieving the best possible developments that are sympathetic to the local environment whilst providing much needed open market and affordable housing.

Skilled workforce and apprenticeships

With such a determined drive to deliver the government’s 2020 new homes targets, recruiting and keeping a skilled workforce can be challenging. Cavanna Homes has a loyal workforce and supply chain, including contractors with whom we have had a long-standing working relationship. They are the backbone of our company and the reason why we can deliver the quality of new homes we’re known for. That said, we are very focused on growing our talent which is why we invest in apprentices across all of our business activities; from land buyers and quantity surveyors to funding apprentices for our tradesmen. We have strong links with our local colleges and recruit from their construction courses. There are very good careers to be had in construction and I, Keith Miller, am a living example of that, having started my career as a bricklayer.

Staff welfare

We are continually investing in training and new technology to ensure the highest standards of health and safety on all our sites. With a focus on meeting targets, it’s important not to lose sight of the health, safety and welfare of our teams. We believe that a safe, healthy and happy team is a productive team. The results of that shine through in the quality of our homes.

Homebuilders nationally are prioritising mental health awareness and we are no exception to this. Our Head of HR Victoria Potter, alongside our Head of Health and Safety Richard Henderson, have implemented new processes and procedures to support workers, both on and off-site.

Infrastructure’s crucial role in the one million new homes target

Superfast broadband is being rolled out nationally with the aim of installation in all new homes by 2033. However, it is a key aim of the new government to accelerate the full-out to 2025. In the Westcountry, there are still some rural areas that have poor connections but we are very aware that good broadband is an important consideration for our homebuyers. We are pleased to say that an increase in service supply has allowed us to install superfast broadband across all our new developments.

We’ve also seen an improvement in the performance of statutory water supply companies. This improvement allows our construction teams to have increased confidence that reliable and efficient water supply is deliverable.

Getting power to our projects can be a challenge. The protracted process of planning, legal work and implementation often hold up delivery to our sites.

An area which is facing potential change in the next few years is the adoption of new roads and sewage systems. The approval process for infrastructure plans is often very lengthy, and with a lack of resources, the adoption authorities are struggling to maintain the volume of applications coming forward. Homebuilders are also looking at ways to improve road planning to ensure it is as simple, yet effective as possible.

As we look ahead to 2020, we are optimistic that we will continue to meet the demand for high-quality new homes here in the Westcountry and are confident that Cavanna Homes continues to be the homebuilder of choice for people looking to buy a new home in Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset.

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