December 9 2013 Latest news:
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
The regional boss of construction firm Morgan Sindall said a new housing boom was fuelling a materials and labour shortage for the industry as developers compete to get schemes off the ground.
Gavin Napper, area director of the firm, said the company was in a strong position after securing work to build the £12m Centrum project on the Norwich Research Park, and the Enterprise Centre at the UEA. Other projects include a £15m Essex Business School contract while its special works teams, which focus on contracts between £250,000 and £2m, had also enjoyed success including a refurbishment of Norwich City Hall.
Meanwhile, the firm’s investment division was also pioneering a new approach to securing land for developments through so-called ‘local area asset backed vehicles’ which enables the public sector to secure funding by releasing land it owns.
But, the revived housing market was placing pressure on the industry and there was a shortage of breeze blocks and bricks.
Anecdotally some firms in Norfolk are reporting a six month time lag in meeting existing demand for breeze blocks, and Mr Napper said that had held up some schemes.
And it could see a new approach moving designs away from brickwork to concrete panels with bricks embedded on the front of them.
“We have seen a definite shift in the market and it’s going to overheat,” he said. “The housing market has boomed in the last six to eight months and that’s having a big effect on our industry. We don’t do housing, but trying to get bricklayers and bricks is proving a real problem. As more houses are getting built, market prices are going up, and in some cases the housebuilders are paying bricklayers £60 a day more.”
A loss of skills in the industry which is only beginning to be made up by the focus on creating more apprenticeships, was also making the situation harder. And that lack of skills meant the firm was struggling to recruit as the market picks up.
“A lot of people in their 40s and 50s, who were still earning the same money as 15 years ago have said they have had enough and gone to stack shelves in supermarkets,” he added. “We had a period of 18 months where we didn’t have a vacancy apart from graduates and apprentices. Now we have got eight vacancies. It’s becoming a lot busier.”
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