11 March 2005
Droitwich-based Neil Grinnall Homes has experienced persistent delays on all four of its newly completed apartment and townhouse schemes in the Worcestershire region, due to the company’s uncompromising quality standards not always being met by its contractors.
Leading industry heavyweight, Neil Grinnall – Chairman of the regional developer, believes the UK’s construction trade is artificially slowing up the pace of work across many new homes sites, creating unnecessary, inherent hold-ups for developers, agents and vitally, the end consumer.
Neil Grinnall comments: “We are delighted at having raised the standard of luxury new homes within Worcestershire and we have proven time and time again that homeowners are willing to pay a premium price for quality. However, delays to construction programmes are so commonplace in the new homes industry that homeowners are beginning to loose faith in the timescales we provide for occupations and have become far more weary of buying off-plan.
“Whilst it was commonplace a couple of years ago for us to sell virtually all the plots in a new scheme off-plan months prior to completion, we now realistically expect only 50 – 80 per cent of sales to occur off-plan. Whilst the ‘urgency factor’ has been removed from the current market due to last year’s rising interest rates and subsequent stabilisation of capital growth, I am a firm believer that the moving timescales for construction, forced upon us by ill-performing tradesmen, are in fact a much greater hurdle to overcome.”
Neil Grinnall Homes only has seven three-bedroom townhouses and converted Stables properties left to sell at its flagship Hadzor Hall scheme in Droitwich Spa, which is just seeing the final landscaping works being completed this week. Designed in an elegant Georgian courtyard arrangement, the developer is incredibly proud that Hadzor’s 36 new homes have incurred build costs that are at least 20 per cent over the industry average. However, the attention to detail which is so apparent in each of the larger than average properties, all featuring wooden sash windows, bricks that typify the Georgian era and a designer specification was something that the developer accepts was not naturally implemented by their contractors from the outset.
Mr Grinnall continues: “The lack of pride in the job portrayed by contractors puts tremendous strain on our senior management in trying to produce an end product that meets the high expectations of consumers. Unlike cars, houses are hand-built on site by a varying degree of skilled workmen. Building regulations and quality control measures stipulated by the National House Building Council (NHBC) have risen significantly over recent years and yet the care, attention and build quality implemented by some contractors has made it a constant battle to finish new properties to the high standard we require at the purchaser handover stage.”
Neil Grinnall continued: “To ensure we maintain one of the highest standards of construction in the region, I have fundamentally changed the way my business is run by employing in-house construction managers at every stage of the process to oversee each development. Constructing homes with a top-heavy management structure is costly, but this is now a common solution throughout the industry to combat a potentially unreliable workforce. However, if my managers identify a problematic supplier, making changes can be even more detrimental to the progression of a job because it can take months to employ a new company, which is a long-established result of the construction industry’s skills shortage.”
Other Neil Grinnall Homes’ schemes which are currently welcoming their first residents include the Bath Road townhouse and apartment scheme on Worcester’s Diglis Canal Basin, the conversion of the formers Kay’s Catalogue headquarters into loft style apartments and the development of new townhouses and apartments behind the Kay’s building, known as K2. The developer has completed 154 homes at six sought-after locations within Worcestershire in the past two years, injecting close to £100 million into the local economy.
Having built up a significant in-house team to address and eradicate potential delays in construction, as well as employing professionals with specific planning and design expertise, Neil Grinnall Homes is implementing an ambitious programme of land acquisitions. In the past few months the company has acquired a further four Worcestershire development sites as well as three in the wider Midlands region. Having conceptualised Worcester’s city living phenomenon, the company’s unrepentant acquisitive stance reinforces its thirst for urban regeneration and passion for construction and development.
Neil Grinnall’s concluding thoughts on how to address the skills shortage and lack of pride in the construction industry read: “The only way standards in construction are going to improve is if considerable funds and resources are allocated at Government level. The example set by the armed forces should be adopted where top marketing executives are employed to stage high profile TV and press campaigns, encouraging recruitment and subconsciously glamourising the profession. School leavers through to graduates need to appreciate the fact that construction is one of the highest paid industries and can be an incredibly rewarding career.
“And, on top of initiatives to aid recruitment, a system should be implemented to regulate self-employed contractors. If a dentist, lawyer, doctor or accountant is accused of malpractice, they are struck off, so why doesn’t the same rule apply to plumbers, electricians and carpenters? If a contractor is asked to leave one job due to poor workmanship, they can be employed on another building site the next day without any follow up checks.
“At present the emphasis for quality standards lies solely with the developer – to bring the UK construction industry in line with our European counterparts there needs to be a common goal that everyone is committed to achieving.”
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