30th September 2004
Leading industry heavyweight, Neil Grinnall – Chairman of Droitwich-based Neil Grinnall Homes has hit out at the UK’s construction trade for artificially slowing up the pace of work and failing to meet the rising standards that are now expected throughout Europe. Here he comments on the issues affecting the housebuilding industry and how drastic measures need to be taken to ensure young, skilled people are encouraged to join the profession.
Neil Grinnall comments: “In America, the construction industry is perceived to be glamorous, well paid and with good working conditions. In the UK, the pay is higher, the working conditions are dictated by the contractors themselves and yet the pride for their work is simply sub-standard. Whereas it has always been common practice for developers to slip over schedule on anticipated completion dates by a few weeks, on certain projects I am finding it hard to even predict timescales for purchaser handovers.
“Tradesmen such as bricklayers, carpenters, plumbers and electricians prefer to be self-employed because they can earn more money and work their chosen hours. However, the vast number of self-employed workers now in the industry, combined with the chronic skills shortage has led to a situation where tradesmen are actually dictating the pace of work. So ultimately, whilst many skilled professionals are hardworking, honest and reliable, the fact the industry is unregulated has attracted a considerable proportion of unscrupulous workers who are exploiting the booming property climate.”
Neil Grinnall Homes is one of the Midlands’ fastest growing developers, employing 30 staff and with four developments currently under construction in Droitwich Spa and central Worcester. The company has committed to inject over £320 million into Worcestershire and the wider Midlands over the next two to three years and is expected to receive a number of high density planning consents in the coming months, feeding Neil Grinnall’s thirst for urban regeneration and his passion for construction and development. The company has been responsible for conceptualising Worcester’s city living phenomenon and is fully committed to the region as well as the industry the experienced in-house team has embraced for so long.
Neil continues: “It puts tremendous strain on senior management in trying to produce the end product for the consumer whose expectations are so high, reflecting today’s lifestyle standards. 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.
“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 again brings us back to the skills shortage.
“The only way this situation is 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.”
Neil Grinnall Homes has been developing residential property for 15 years and is currently converting the former Kay’s Catalogue Headquarters in central Worcester into 24 spectacular loft apartments and individual office suites. Behind the façade of the original building on The Tything, the company is also building new townhouses and apartments to meet the increased demand for city living.
On the other side of the city, Worcester’s first canalside apartment scheme at Diglis Road has reached completion and its sister development of 41 canalside apartments at Bath Road is currently under construction. Opposite from Bath Road, also on the Diglis canal basin is Worcester Royal Porcelain’s Albion Mill building, which has planning consent for 78 one and two bedroom apartments and townhouses.
Neil Grinnall Homes’ flagship development is Hadzor Hall in Droitwich Spa, set in 54 acres of countryside. Here, the company is building 36 new Georgian style houses in the grounds of a Grade II listed mansion Hall and has also refurbished an existing building to house their new headquarters. The actual 18th Century Hall is currently being restored as a fine gentleman’s residence by the developer, which is expected to be valued at £4 million on completion.
Neil Grinnall Homes
01905 827 800
0121 643 8151