Michelmersh collects Supreme Winner Award at 2017 Brick Awards
Carlton’s Capital Collection, the perfect match
In July, Michelmersh Brick Holdings PLC was pleased to announce its acquisition of Carlton Main Brickworks Limited, a highly respected regional brick manufacturer, operating from a 93-acre site brickwork based in Barnsley, Yorkshire. The Michelmersh Group has since acknowledged Carlton as one of the UK’s most recognised and prestigious brands. It has therefore integrated its strong product offering into a ‘Carlton’ division, which operates alongside the Group’s other five premium brands; Blockleys, Charnwood, Freshfield Lane, Michelmersh and Hathern Terra Cotta.
3000 mile pedalo journey across the Atlantic for mental health
In memory of Charlie Waller, Max Mossman will set off on a 3000-mile pedalo journey across the Atlantic, voyaging from Gran Canaria to Antigua to raise money and awareness for mental health in young men. Joining Max on this expedition in January 2018, are Hector Turner, Paddy Johnson and Henry Quinlan, who were inspired to partake in the journey after their friend sadly took his own life, aged 28. This will be the first time the route has been attempted by pedal power alone; the first time four people have ever pedalled across any ocean; and potentially the fastest man-powered crossing of the Atlantic.
The goal is to raise money for the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, which was set up in memory of Charlie by his parents. The aim of the trust is to educate people in recognising the signs of depression, to ensure expert advice is available when people need it, and to equip young people to look after their mental wellbeing. A primary goal of the trust is to contribute towards the removal of the mental health stigma that exists in our society.
The vessel, a 9m x 2m pedalo, made from carbon fibre and powered by a propeller is now under construction, and it is due to be completed by September, with the hull complete and the pedal system being designed by naval engineers in Exmouth. The team will complete the crossing in 2-hour continuous shifts, day and night, as two members of the team pedal, whilst the other two rest. Battling waves of up to 50 feet, the team expects the journey will take them approximately 40 days to complete, estimating that they will endure over 4,900,000 pedal rotations over a distance that is the equivalent to 5x the distance between Lands End and John O’Groats.
Max passionately explained: “All of the team have close friends who have been affected by depression and mental illness, noticing the profound effect it can have on families. In many suicide cases the family often says that they had no idea the sufferer had any problems. We want to do what we can to help put a stop to cases like this, we believe it is vital that sufferers understand they are not alone and help is available.
He continued: “Suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 35 and it is imperative to stand up and talk about mental health symptoms in the public sphere. Michelmersh, as a business are keen to support sufferers of depression and mental health and immediately came on board to support us on our mission and to contribute to the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust. Through our campaign’s publicity, our team have already succeeded in highlighting this issue, in helping others to get the help they need before it’s too late. We hope to reach our target fundraising goal and we very much look forward to our voyage early next year!”
Pedal The Pond has already secured sponsorship from a wide variety of companies, including Michelmersh Brick Holdings PLC, which has enabled the team to make the innovative boat-build a possibility. The team raised a spectacular £21,000 for charity in 28 days via a crowdfunding campaign in July, with a target of £200,000 by the end of 2018.
Find out more about Pedal the Pond or the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust on the following links:
Please also donate to their charity at the following fundraising link:
Precision made, premium quality, handmade bricks by Charnwood
Known as the UK’s largest producer of traditionally handmade bricks and specials, produced from its manufacturing base in Leicestershire, Charnwood combines the highest durability characteristics with the ability to tailor bespoke products to your exact specification to produce a premier finish. Two recent unique projects have used quality, premium Charnwood products to form inspiring architecture that encompass distinctive designs.
Stepping Stone House, in Hurley, is a 150sqm multi-room garden house extension located in the grounds of Hurley Manor House. Shortlisted for a RIBA South Regional 2017 Award, architecture practice ‘Hamish and Lyons’ has accomplished a beautiful design, which seeks to embrace the essence of nature using organic structure, natural materials and daylight.
Hamish Herford from Hamish and Lyons Architects, commented: “Brick is used as a non-structural facade/rain screen that wraps around both ends of the buildings. The key design objectives in choosing brick were to relate to the context of the existing brick manor house facades and to create the striking impression of a monolithic, rectilinear form, floating effortlessly above the ground and water. Charnwood I-line Hampshire Red was chosen for its rich, uniform colour and extra length to emphasise the horizontal/ linear aspect of the building. Stretcher bond and a recessed motor joint served to
Stepping Stone House, Photograph by James Brittain
highlight the unique materiality of each brick. Particular attention was given to the junctions between the brick, steel structure and glass to emphasise the precise nature of the building.”
Additionally, Charnwood Henley Red Bricks were used by Fletcher Priest Architects in the construction of Buckingham Green, designed to improve the public realm on a site which lies at the edge of St James’ Park, close to Parliament and Westminster Abbey. The development comprises of four floors of offices with twelve long term tenancy apartments above. Combining a range of different characteristics of the site, such as the late Victorian ornamented brick buildings with beautiful, mature trees, allows Fletcher Priest’s design to make a fantastic, contemporary addition to the site.
Harvey Thorp, Managing Director of Thorp Precast Limited, explained: “The Architects’ decision to select such high quality, richly coloured, handmade facing bricks has proved to be an inspired choice, allowing us to successfully combine modern methods of precast construction with traditional hand thrown clay processes to create distinctive external brickwork façades. The task of creating the ornamented brickwork pattern, which is intended to wrap seamlessly around the building envelope, was made significantly easier with the use of highly crafted, accurately formed, and evenly coloured blended bricks. The stepped interlocking brickwork relief pattern has largely been achieved by clever design, innovative 3D mould technology, and highly efficient methods of installation. The contribution of premium quality Charnwood bricks has also been pivotal in helping us deliver the highly decorative brickwork.
“This is not the first-time Thorp have worked successfully with Charnwood products from Michelmersh Brick Holdings PLC, combining the very latest precast technology, and off site manufacturing techniques with the use of traditional UK brick materials to help continue an outstanding legacy for unique, highly attractive, and sustainable brickwork facades.”
Charnwood continues to deliver precision made, premium quality products for every project. With the large, rich and diverse range of contemporary schemes that it has undertaken in the past 12 months, knowledge and experience are second to none.
Timelessly authentic finish for exclusive apartments by HeronsleaHeronslea Group, a leading developer of prestigious new homes, with a reputation for high quality standards and attention to detail, has launched its newest development called ‘The Residence’ this month. It showcases nine exclusively designed apartments, each individually styled and equipped with exclusive facilities, high specifications and cutting-edge technology. The materials used in the construction are second to none, boldly featuring Freshfield Lane’s popular Danehill yellow bricks, which are blended simultaneously across the facades of these impressive homes. Set to raise the expectation of buyers, ‘The Residence’ offers luxury lateral living, with private pools and breath-taking views, boasting direct access to central London in just half an hour.
Located on the sought-after Camlet Way road, on the edge of Hadley Common, the development sits in a prime position surrounded by ten acres of ancient woodland. The warm, ‘earthy’, timelessly authentic facades, with rich umber hues and bright, yellow variations in the bricks, complement the lush, green landscape of the neighbouring natural context. Clamp fired stock bricks have always been a long lasting, sustainable building material, which will keep their beautiful appearance for years to come and have proved to be a perfect match for Heronslea’s most recent design.
Jason Rishover, CEO of Heronslea Group commented: “This is our most prestigious development to date and we are extremely proud of the homes we have created here. We have blended the latest technology, with the finest design and the best craftsmanship, to create nine very special individual homes. This craftsmanship is predicated from the foundation up, contributing the best, most durable and aesthetically pleasing materials, including the specification of top quality Danehill Yellow bricks from Michelmersh. The comprehensive service and blending process undertaken by the British manufacturer to create the eloquent exterior of ‘The Residence’, could not be faulted, having produced a frontage with a grand presence to match Heronslea’s high quality hallmarks. This, combined with exceptional interiors, impressive interior design, private pools and terraces with views of treetops, makes ‘The Residence’ a breathtaking development.”
Frank Hanna, Joint Chief Executive Officer of Michelmersh, added: “We continue to strive to deliver top quality products for top quality architecture. ‘The Residence’ is added to a long list of prestigious developments that we are proud to have been involved in. The craftsmanship and exceptional attention to detail on display, is testament to Heronslea’s ability to deliver exclusive living which is always in high demand.”
Guild of Bricklayers National final 2017
On Wednesday 21st June, Luke Neville and Tyler Pearce took part in the Guild of Bricklayers National final at Derby College. They progressed to the final after winning their respective junior and senior categories, at the London regional heat. This the second year running, Brooklands College has had two finalists.
Luke and Tyler competed against 9 other regional heat winners, from around the UK and Wales. The junior category is a five hour competition and the seniors six hours. Luke and Tyler felt confident and were focused prior to the judges starting the competition. On the stroke of half past nine, the judges started the competition. Both Brooklands students made a confident start, showing good skills. At the lunchtime, the halfway stage; both students were on schedule to complete their models in the allotted time.
The junior models were marked after the five had elapsed. They were double checked by two pairs of Guild of bricklayer’s judges. The same happened after the senior category had finish. Now the nerves heightened as the scores were tallied up. At the presentation, the judges commented on the high standard of work in both categories. Luke Narrowly missed a top three position. After a very tense count down of third, then second, it was time for the winner to be announced. ‘ the winner is Tyler Pearce from Brooklands College’ This equates to the title of number 1 brickwork student in the UK!
We are Britain’s Brick Specialists
Michelmersh’s clay units are in demand throughout the UK for both public and private sectors and across a multitude of developments, ranging from schools and hospitals to theatres and offices. It continues to fulfil sensitive conservation requirements to compliment contemporary designs and to form inspiring architecture. The company believes it has a responsibility to offer a wide cross section of colours and rich textures to gratify all desires and the most stringent of planning requirements
Frank Hanna, Joint Chief Executive Officer of Michelmersh, commented: “We hope this video will show that by combining unbeatable quality in volume productions, professionals can rely on us. Our design advice, superb interpretations and a first-rate customer service are given to every project, no matter the size.”
Dominic Barretto, Managing Director of Yellow Jersey PR, said: “The video offers investors a fantastic insight into the latest technology and manufacturing processes. It highlights the extensive scale of the Michelmersh production plants and this new corporate film encompasses inventive marketing techniques to match the Company’s strong product demand. Michelmersh's ongoing commitment to investment in manufacturing upgrades means that the Group is increasingly well placed to increase output efficiency and to maintain its reputation for exceptional product quality.”
Michelmersh is committed to providing the finest level of support with all of its premium products, designed to perform as beautifully as they look and enhancing our built environment for generations to come.The video is featured via the company website and YouTube channel on the following links:
Throwing clay bricks with Duggan Morris Architects
Britain’s Brick Specialist is always looking for ways to highlight the importance of education, knowledge and experience amongst all parties throughout a construction project, involving the design, use and production process of clay products. This is why Michelmersh was extremely enthusiastic to invite a team of designers from award winning Duggan Morris Architects and representatives from EH Smith, to Charnwood, the prestigious Leicestershire based plant. Eight architects grasped the opportunity to get their hands dirty and learnt how to ‘throw’ clay bricks.
David Storring, Technical Director of Duggan Morris Architects said: “As the largest producer of handmade bricks in the UK, Charnwood is an impressive and specialist brickworks. We were given a full tour of the works by the Charnwood team and we were able to see the complete process from raw clay to final packaged bricks. We were shown the benefits of the handmade process, ranging from special brick moulds to full-scale terracotta casts. Later, we had the opportunity to try it out ourselves, firstly ‘throwing’ our own bricks (each of our best bricks were initialled and fired for us), and then laying our own brick walls under tuition from the on-site bricklayer. Thank you to EH Smith, Michelmersh and all at Charnwood for such an insightful, inspiring and interactive day out.”
Michelmersh is the UK’s premium producer of bricks, pavers and roof tiles with a wide variety of innovative, popular brands that continue to attract the attention of leading design practices. Its products and services have become the most trusted and renowned within the construction sector, as competitors now look to Michelmersh for pioneering ideas to stimulate, motivate and enthuse the younger generation.
Frank Hanna, Joint Chief Executive Officer of Michelmersh, commented: “Architects traditionally draw brickwork in their design proposals and rarely get the opportunity to physically feel the clay and watch the process from start to finish. We hope that Duggan Morris felt inspired by watching this natural material transform into our bricks, offered in a comprehensive selection of colours and textures. Whilst we continue to see a revival in modern brick architecture and a demand for strong craftsmanship values, we hope that our ethos and processes exceed the expectations and demands of our clients.”
Michelmersh continues to showcase the ingredients of raw clay materials that transform into remarkable, tactile products. By using the most cutting-edge technology and refined traditional methods, Michelmersh will continue to deliver highly demanded, beautifully crafted, durable products that complement the most outstanding architecture, both traditional and contemporary, to improve our built environment.
Michelmersh achieves creditable first audit RoSPA scores
Accidents are the biggest threat to individuals in the UK, with current figures stating that 14,000 people each year pass away as a result of accidents. For almost 100 years, The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has worked to change both legislation and attitudes, performing an instrumental role in shaping our society to prevent millions of deaths or serious injuries. Through varied activities such as campaigning, research, influencing legislation, informing and educating, auditing and providing expert consultancy to businesses, it is the leading advocate for the wellbeing of families everywhere. It helps to put an end to unnecessary suffering at work, on the road, in the home, and at leisure.
Peter continued: “I was honoured and excited to be invited to a garden party at the palace, a truly unique opportunity, not to be missed. The event did not disappoint. Everything was perfect: the weather, food, gardens and of course, seeing the royals at close hand made for a truly memorable afternoon amongst safety friends and colleagues.”
The afternoon celebrated the work of those making a difference in the field of Health and Safety. It was a unique opportunity to enjoy afternoon tea in the beautiful gardens of Buckingham Palace and to meet other RoSPA friends. There were two military bands that provided the music and there was ample opportunity to stroll around the famous grounds. The royals in attendance were Prince Andrew and Princess Eugenie.
Amy Harris, Group Health Safety & Training Manager at Michelmersh, said: “We were delighted to have been invited to an event that recognises not only our own hard work but the hard work across all industries in preventing accidents and saving lives. It was an amazing day and with the sun shining, it was the perfect way for the charity to mark the pinnacle of their centenary celebrations. RoSPA is inspirational in the work it does; we are proud to support it and to have been able to experience this day with its employees and our peers.”
Supporting local Romsey charity, Jane Scarth House
Cancer support centre, Jane Scarth House, has been in existence for over 20 years. It was founded in memory of Romsey resident and mother of two, Jane Scarth, whose family continues to be heavily involved with the work of the charity.
With growing numbers of people relying on the charity, the premises became too small and presented inaccessibility issues for people with limited mobility. Jane Scarth House’s primary goal is to provide emotional and practical support to anyone whose life is affected by cancer, whether it be the person living with cancer, or a family member, close friend, carer or partner. To carry out these aims the charity was kindly offered an alternative single storey premises right in the centre of Romsey. The new location was still too small for the charity to fulfil its needs as a replacement Jane Scarth House, however, an application for planning permission was swiftly submitted to extend the new premises and after few minor adjustments it was quickly approved.
The project got off to a speedy start. Planning permission was submitted in September 2016, the lease was signed in November, and groundworks began on 1st of March this year. To help support the project build 3,000 Michelmersh Hampshire Stock Red Multi ATR bricks were delivered free of charge by the British manufacturer, travelling only 3 miles from the Romsey based factory to the site.
Sue Jones, Trustee of Jane Scarth House said: “As a leading local company with a product that we knew we’d need, one of the first companies we approached was Michelmersh Brick Holdings PLC. They immediately offered us all the bricks we required for the extension, which we are extremely grateful for.”
The team at Jane Scarth House have been enormously successful in mobilising a ‘Jane’s Army’ of building material donors and tradesmen to construct the extension, building on the superb support that it currently receives from the people of Romsey.
Frank Hanna, Joint Chief Executive Officer of Michelmersh, commented: “We are pleased to have been able to support this vital local charity, with their new extension, our Hampshire Stock bricks were a great match for the project. We all appreciate the dedicated work of the charity and we’re sure that this project will mean a lot to the people of Romsey, we look forward to the new facility being officially opened this summer.”
Sue continues to seek pledges of support, stating: “We are still very appreciative of any offers of help with the extension project, and welcome any donations that will help us fund the much-valued support that we provide for local cancer sufferers and their family and friends from the house.”
A year of investment ahead
The investment in the Borough Green factory will effectively replace the main production facility, allowing the comany to capitalise on more modern technology, increasing the production capacity and also improving the consistent quality of the blocks produced at the plant.
Contracts have been signed with the equipment manufacturers preparing for the transformational build which is scheduled to take place during the winter of 2017 / 2018.
Managing Director of H+H, Calum Forsyth said "In making this investment, our parent company is expressing its confidence in the strength of the market in the UK.
Bespoke modern blend with a bespoke quality and service
Bricks for Berkeley Group’s Kidbrooke Village Regeneration Scheme
Michelmersh secured a significant order of Freshfield Lane Selected Darks, Danehill Yellows and a bespoke ‘Kidbrooke’ Synthesis blend of bricks for the Kidbrooke scheme, as part of Sadiq Khan’s proposal to deliver 10,000 new homes to London. Deliveries started in October and the British manufacturer has been supplying the regeneration projects in the area over the past 24 months.
The design by architects Lifshutz Davidson Sandilands received planning consent in 2009 with construction starting later that year. The village, predominantly characterised by brick, is being built to high levels of energy efficiency - codes 3 and 4 homes, for the different phases. There will be an energy centre in the middle and extensive use of renewables, with a new park including ecology and wetland zones. Through a vision of harmonious design, collaboration of all stakeholders and consideration for all users, residents and the local community, Kidbrooke Village is sure to become a popular and successful
Mike Quinton to leave NHBC
Following over four years as Chief Executive, Mike Quinton will be leaving NHBC at the end of January 2017. From 1st February the current Chairman, Isabel Hudson, will become Executive Chairman and Neil Jefferson, Business Development Director, will step up as Managing Director until a permanent successor has been appointed.
Since his arrival in 2012, Mike has taken NHBC forward and led the organisation successfully through a period of significant growth in the new build sector, supporting builders to deliver high quality new homes.
Following the announcement, Mike said, “After four years, I’m pleased to leave NHBC in a strong position and well equipped to face the challenges ahead. I leave behind an organisation making a vital contribution to the UK housing sector. NHBC is valued, trusted and relied upon by housebuilders and homeowners and I am sure the organisation will continue to flourish in the years ahead. I wish the management team and all staff the very best for the future.”
Isabel Hudson said, “Much has changed at NHBC during the four years that Mike has been Chief Executive and the Board is grateful to him for the significant developments which have taken place under his leadership. We would like to take this opportunity to wish him well for the future.”
Building Alliance welcomes new measures to "Get Britain Building"
The Conserative Conference was dominated by the need to build more homes with a range of key annoucements and a "White Paper" being published later this year wahch will set out the route plan to deliver one million new homes by 2020.
The package includes the launch of a £3 billion Home Builders Fund which will provide £1 billion of short term loan funding for small builders, custom builders, and innovators, aimed at delivering 25,500 homes by 2020. This is an increase of £325 million over the previous commitment through the £525 million Builders Finance fund and the £150m Build to Rent fund - these will now be incorporated within the new combined fund.
The fund will also provide £2 billion of long term funding for infrastructure aimed at unlocking a pipeline of up to 200,000 homes over the longer term – with the emphasis on developments on brownfield land. HBF said that £1.2 billion of this £2 billion had been previously announced as the Large Sites Infrastructure Fund in 2015.
Javid also announced an “Accelerated Construction” programme paid for through £2 billion of new public sector net borrowing – this will be used to address “failures in the market”. The government aims to use surplus public land to build faster, encouraging new developers with different models into housebuilding, and to support SMEs.
Local builders will feature more stongly in the mix to deliver the smaler sites in local cimmuuties to meet local need.
The announcement also focused on proposed changes to the planning system. While there is a focus on bringing forward brownfield sites for redevelopment there is no return to a “brownfield first” strategy, either explicit or implied.
The Government also says it intends to “strengthen national planning policy to create a “de facto” presumption in favour of housing on suitable brownfield land and to drive up density levels in high demand areas while ensuring that developments are well-designed and respect the character of the local area”
Mike Leonard, CEO of the Buiding Alliance said " The Get Britain Building" message is as relevant today as it was 8 years ago when we starterd the campaign. This week's anoucements and the emphasis shift towards local builders will be vital as will the easing of planning restraints. It is critiacal however that we build these homes using British made bricks and blocks built to last 150 years, the Government must not loose sight of tthe multipler effect on jobs and growth which comes from making it and building it in the UK."
The impact of Brexit on Construction
The lead up to the referendum, the hiatus caused by the result and the subsequent resignation of the Prime Minister saw the level of business confidence reduce and trading fall in July and August. This was however short lived as the predictions of imminent disaster failed to materialize and consumer spending remained strong.
The UK construction sector is due to decline in 2017/18 but this is more to do with the winding down of major infrastructure projects such as Cross Rail, ahead of major projects such as HS2, Heathrow Runway 3 and Hinckley Point coming on stream.
The new Government has renewed its commitment to build one million homes which will include 100000 directly combined homes on public land. The predominate tenue of these homes is likely to be private for sale or rent as cuts in grants for social housing and reduced benefits for occupiers begins to take effect. This together with a continuation of the “Right to Buy” policy will almost certainly worsen the prospects for those on the lowest incomes assessing good quality housing.
With a significant housing shortage and the economic benefits of the circular economy we can expect the building of new homes and the renovation the existing stock to remain as a priority for the foreseeable future. Manufacturers are currently investing in new capacity to produce core materials such as bricks and blocks and there is a lot of work commencing around the need to address the long-term skills supply.
The construction industry must now set out its business case for migrant skilled construction workers to continue to be allowed to work on the UK. The volatile nature of the industry which includes significant fluctuation in demand means that access to migrant workers, particularly for major projects is critical.
This will be achieved, not least because the UK has been built with the help of migrants for hundreds of years. To continue this practice makes good economic and social sense as all our efforts to increase the supply of skilled workers living within the UK will not be sufficient to meet demand and replace the 30% of our workforce we expect to leave through retirement.
High satsifaction amongst new home owners
Eight out of ten Housing Association residents remain pleased with their homes, NHBC Foundation survey finds
Housing Association residents remain pleased with their new homes, with 80% saying they were very satisfied or satisfied after 3-4 years of occupancy, new research has shown. Nearly two-thirds (64%) said their home was much better than their previous residence, illustrating that standards of new affordable housing are meeting expectations and often exceeding them.
There was a high level of satisfaction with many key aspects of design, such as space, internal layout and security, and residents themselves identified a wide range of positive attributes of their new homes.
In addition over 80% of residents were satisfied with the overall appearance of their housing development and most felt that it integrated well with surrounding buildings and met the needs of residents. However, modern living was found to challenge some aspects of design, particularly the level of storage and parking provision, according to a survey commissioned by the NHBC Foundation and supported by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA).
Nearly 30% of residents surveyed, were dissatisfied with parking provision. A further 27% were dissatisfied with storage space, with some residents struggling to store basic household items such as vacuum cleaners, bedding and linen, toys, shoes and even clothes.
The adequacy of ventilation was also a concern, with 55% of those surveyed recognising one or more symptoms of poor ventilation: dampness and/or condensation (41%), mould (28%), or lingering cooking odours (10%). In addition some residents were dissatisfied with the winter temperatures in their homes and, significantly about 20% found their heating controls difficult to use.
The findings are outlined in Affordable homes: residents’ views of quality and compared with the HCA Quality Counts surveys which take place shortly after residents move in. Conducting this survey three-to-four years after residents have moved in means they have had more time to appreciate both the longer-term advantages and consider any issues they have encountered with their new home. The results provide an important new picture of residents’ ongoing satisfaction levels.
Neil Smith, Head of Research & Innovation at NHBC said “The standards of new affordable housing are such that most residents are still pleased even three or four years after moving in, long after the initial euphoria of having a new home has worn off.
“This is great news, but there is still room for improvement. Providing more help to residents on how to run their homes more effectively should be a priority for housing associations and developers. The research highlights increasing expectations for parking and the challenge this creates for the overall design of developments.
Michelmersh wins the Architect’s Choice Award for Whitty Theatre
On November 10th the Brick Development Association hosted the prestigious 40th Brick Awards ceremony which entailed a special accent of glamour for the ruby celebration that rewards exemplary brick design and construction. Michelmersh had yet another successful year, grasping the accolade of Architect’s Choice award for the Whitty Theatre designed by van Heyningen and Haward Architects.
It has been a fantastic project to work on, and winning a brick award for the project is an honour to be proud of.”
Land supply is at the heart of housing crisis
It would be funny if if were not so serious to see our national and local politicians and officers desperately looking for solutions to the housing crisis, that avoids dealing with the central issue of planning and land supply. In doing so they are misleading and letting down the public and a whole generation who are unable find cost effective housing solutions.
In their desperation, they have sought to blame the material providers, the bricklayers and the housing developers who invest private capital to fund housing development.
Having never built a house in their lives, our politicians are now busy telling us how to build not where to build. They seek to convince the public that shaving two weeks off the time it takes to build a house is the solution which they know not to be true. They are now actively promoting moving our house building capability offshore and importing kit houses as the alternative to building onsite.
The unintended consequence of this reckless action, if successful, would be to destroy our brick and block industry and the onsite skill base with significant unemployment resulting. This would greatly increase costs and imports at the very time that our Government are preparing for critical Brexit negotiations.
The real uncomfortable truth is that there remains an institutionalised objection to change and development in much of the country which is embedded in our communities. Instead of leading and making the case for change too many of our politicians and officers are compliant in managing a development prevention system rather than facing up to the realities of supply and demand. The irony occurs when some areas are the exact opposite, keen to push housing developments in areas that lack infrastructure and jobs where there is much less consumer demand to live.
We need a joined-up plan aligning demand for all tenures with supply providing low cost homes to rent, affordable solutions for first time buyers and a range of downsizing options for last time buyers.The Neighbourhood Planning process has been driven by false targets rather than demand and has resulted in mostly large sites being included.
We must urgently re-visit the process to identify and map the smaller infill sites that could be built out by smaller developers. We must make full use of the £5 billon housing fund which will be included in the Autumn Statement to unlock these sites and ensure they are viable. Our planners need to be proactively involved in driving this process and not just acting as gatekeepers. This is crucial to the delivery of more homes as is the re-evaluation of green belt land on the edge of built up areas, which if everyone is honest, could be developed without destroying our green and pleasant land.
At the recent Conservative Conference, there was much talk about people now being much more in favour of developments, I remain unconvinced that we have made real progress in this area, we need a much bigger grown-up conversation at local level about how we are going to make enough land available to build new homes that suit the profile of the community both now and in the foreseeable future.
The public deserves to understand that a shortage of land will inevitably result in housing to buy and rent becoming increasingly unaffordable which in time will impact on their plans for family and friends.
It is time to plan rather than react, we need to recognise that housing is a key part of our infrastructure, we must build homes to last 150 years using local materials and skilled labour creating jobs and growth. These homes must be built in areas that have good transport, health and education facilities and where there are jobs. These elements are all vital ingredients of a sustainable society.
Continued support at Brooklands ... the future’s bright ....
The only genuine Hampshire stock facing brick
There is only one original Hampshire stock brick in the UK and it is produced by MBH PLC’s plant in Romsey. From the heart of the Test Valley comes a stock brick that has been manufactured for over 40 years. Handmade versions in a stunning pallet of colours and various enviable textures have been in production at this local plant for over 170 years. In order to make a lasting impression, designers and house builders are specifying this prestigious, unequalled, genuine Hampshire stock brick, to enhance the built environment for many generations to come. Used to compliment both traditional and contemporary architecture, self-builders have extensively built with MBH PLC’s Hampshire stock products that can be widely seen up and down the Country.
There is historical evidence which shows that bricks have been made at the Michelmersh site for almost 1000 years. This special Reading bed clay seam produces a wealth of colours from warm oranges to dark purples which are hand blended for colour and quality, offering over 5 standard blends across the range.
MBH PLC manufacture over 5,500,000 Hampshire stock facing bricks, 3,500,000 handmade bricks and 1,500,000 handmade roof tiles each year. This carefully blended product boasts fantastic physical and technical properties, including being fully frost resistant.
The British manufacturer’s unrivalled reputation for high quality products and meticulous customer service has resulted in an exhaustive list of projects in a variety of locations and styles, all specifying this distinctive clay product. Handmade Coarse Textured Plain Red stretchers and Grey Brown headers were blended for the contemporary home in Woodridge, Newbury designed by Tompkins Rygole Architects. Frequently specified by Octagon developments, Hampshire stocks are also featured on their award winning development, Long Walk Villas in Berkshire. This elegant terrace of classical townhouses and traditional villa style properties, in an enviable position overlooking Windsor’s Long Walk, the Castle and Great Park, are built to a high specification and faced in a very popular lighter toned Hampshire stock blend.
Often imitated, never equalled
Mark Wall, Southern Sales Director of MBH PLC said: “Our high quality Hampshire range continues a lifelong legacy, providing rich bespoke brick blends to enhance our built environment for generations. This product has often been imitated but can never be equalled as we endeavour to continue manufacturing the only genuine Hampshire stock brick in the UK. Our bespoke blends offer a brick with real character to compliment any style of architecture, ensuring that this product will continue to be desired and used for future generations. We are Michelmersh Brick Holdings PLC, we are Britain’s Brick Specialist.”
Beware Prescriptive Building – Former MD of H+H Mark Oliver
12th May 2015
It is often said that there is no such thing as a new idea and it is with something of a weary sigh that we have listened to Brandon Lewis, Housing and Planning Minister, returning to the subject of offsite construction and suggesting it could be the magic bullet that eliminates the shortage of new homes.
It is good news to hear that housing is a priority for the Conservative government and excellent to see that politicians of all major parties recognise the need to build more new homes. However, when a minister starts to suggest that he is in a position to dictate how the housebuilding companies who can deliver that ambition should carry out their business, then I worry.
Advocates of offsite construction frequently make comparisons between the automotive industry and housebuilding, suggesting that increasing automation, factory production and standardisation will inevitably produce the results we are looking for.
This is an interesting comparison because the track record of governments is hardly positive in the automotive sector. Government intervention in the UK car industry of the 1970s preceded a collapse and the decimation of the sector in this country.
Fortunately car production is back in the UK - but it has recovered because conditions were created to attract foreign investment from the likes of Nissan, Toyota, Honda and more recently Tata with Jaguar Land Rover and BMW with Mini. So you would think that attempts to mimic the recovery in automotive manufacturing would focus on the more successful intervention: creating conditions that make the UK an attractive option for investment from the world’s largest building product manufacturers such as Holcim, Heidelberg and St-Gobain.
Instead of which we find an increasingly outspoken Mr Lewis suggesting that the sector will miss all of its targets unless it embraces offsite construction and making some generalised judgements on the efficacy of this method which could be considered to be highly misleading.
No-one is likely to deny that we need more housebuilding in this country – but I would contend that the government’s role is to create the conditions to allow volume building and leave it to the builders to decide the business model that will enable them to deliver.
Given my role as MD of an aircrete block manufacturer, I am scarcely a disinterested commentator, but I have also been working in the construction sector for many years in different roles and have listened to the debate about offsite construction many times.
My main concern right now is that too great a focus from Government on encouraging offsite construction will deter product manufacturers from investing in the production capacity that we need. Having been through a really severe housebuilding recession, the manufacturers that are still supplying the sector are those that have the flexibility to reduce production, mothball plants and survive ready for the market to pick up.
We are now at the stage where existing plants are working hard to fulfil demand. Additional facilities are available – requiring investment to bring them back on stream. The last thing we want to do is suggest to the multi-national companies who own those facilities that the UK government is likely to coerce the housebuilding sector to use particular build methods that would jeopardise the market for their products.
And even if the government does chose to go down that path I don’t believe it will find a huge enthusiasm to invest in offsite construction. Many players invested heavily in the last housebuilding boom only to have to close facilities in the downturn.
Companies including four of the top ten housebuilders vertically integrated into offsite manufacturing in either steel or timber but have since closed their factories or sold them on to other businesses that subsequently shut the doors. Only two of the top 30 housebuilders still have their own offsite businesses.
And product manufacturers too got involved with the experiment. Tata Steel set up its Corus Living Solutions modular building plant and then had to make 180 people redundant when it closed in 2010 along with many independent offsite timber frame businesses.
Even my company, H+H, went down this path in 2002 by opening a plant to manufacture storey high wall elements and floor panels for use in modular construction. That factory has since been converted to produce aircrete blocks.
Not only is there anxiety over commitment to the principle of offsite manufacture, there is also nervousness surrounding the performance of schemes that embraced the concept.
For example, when John Prescott was advocating a rapid move to offsite, seven “Millennium Villages” were built with the aim of highlighting new building techniques. One of these, Oxley Woods estate in Milton Keynes, used flat-packed houses of insulated steel panels overlaid with cedar cladding. Designed by Richard Rogers, the development won many plaudits for the forward-thinking design of the houses. The 122-home estate is currently the subject of a £5million legal claim against Rogers’ firm brought by the developer over water penetration.
These concerns have surely contributed to the decline in the use of pre-fabrication techniques for building homes. NHBC figures suggest that the market share for new timber frame homes in England is now down to just 7%.
My own view is that the government should focus on encouraging demand for new houses and removing any barriers that prevent commercial organisations capitalising on that demand. The previous government moved significantly in that direction with its Help to Buy initiative stimulating the private sector housebuilding sector and legislation to simplify planning helping to speed up the availability of land for development.
Once companies can be confident of a sustained demand then you can be sure they will find the most efficient way to grow their market. My message to our politicians is simple: if you want more homes, then encourage companies to invest. Either you commit the taxpayer to funding a growth in social housing or create the conditions for private developers to thrive. Ensure there can be a reasonable expectation that there is a long-term commitment to the policy and experimentation and innovation will follow, but don’t try to force the direction in which this moves.
Carl Sargeant has returned to the housing brief in the new Welsh cabinet.
Mr Sargeant has been named cabinet secretary for communities and children following the formation this week of a minority Labour government led by Carwyn Jones.
The government also confirmed its intention to build 20,000 affordable homes in the new parliament - doubling supply compared to the last time. The Liberal Democrat party said it had reached an agreement with Labour for a ‘progressive alliance’ which will include building Rent to Buy homes.
The appointment means Mr Sargeant returns to the housing brief after a 20-month absence.
Mr Sargeant served as minister for housing and regeneration from March 2013 to September 2014, before being moved to minister for natural resources in a reshuffle.
During his previous role in charge of housing, Mr Sargeant made headlines by threatening to stop grant to social landlords that do not have a strategy in place for tackling domestic abuse.
The new government was formed after Plaid Cymru reached an agreement to allow Labour to lead as a minority government, following a deadlock lasting several days.
Both Labour and Plaid Cymru campaigned on a ticket of doubling the rate of affordable housebuilding to 20,000 over the course of the parliament. First minister Mr Jones, however, did not mention housing policy in a speech this week setting out key priorities for the new government’s first 100 days.
The appointment of Mr Sargeant was welcomed by both the Chartered Institute of Housing and Community Housing Cymru.
Aaron Hill, public affairs manager at Community Housing Cymru, said: “We had a productive relationship with him when he was Housing and Regeneration minister previously, signing a housing supply pact to increase the number of affordable homes across Wales.”
Julie Nicholas, policy and public affairs manager at the Chartered Institute of Housing, added: “We now hope to see an ambitious target for affordable homes, increased capital funding to realise this target, and to continue the collaborative approach to developing joined-up housing policy and legislation, under the system stewardship of Welsh Government in the next assembly term.”