Norse Group targets affordable homes market as it tackles public sector cuts

One of the Passivhaus eco standard homes at Carrowbreck Meadow at Hellsdon - built in partnership by

One of the Passivhaus eco standard homes at Carrowbreck Meadow at Hellsdon - built in partnership by Broadland District Council and Norse Property Services. From left, Andrew Proctor, leader of Broadland District Council, and chairman of the board of Broadland Growth Ltd; Melvyn Stone, NPS Group estates director; Shaun Vincent, portfolio holder for planning at Broadland District Council, and Broadland Growth board director; and Richard Gawthorpe, group director sales and marketing NPS Group, and Broadland Growth director. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

Building homes on commercially 'unattractive' land to tackle a national shortage in homes could help services group Norse overcome cuts to council spending, its boss has said.

Norse Group managing director Mike Britch said working with local authorities to develop affordable housing on sites commercial developers might leave alone would help drive its property division.

'We are looking to help those authorities sat on bits of land that would be deemed unattractive to market in terms of developers' return,' he said.

'I think we can build on those at a lower cost and still make a reasonable return, though not anything like what you would expect if you were a commercial developer.'

Mr Britch said the group, which has a strong presence across East Anglia, was looking at opportunities nationwide, following the success of its Carrowbreck Meadow development built in partnership with Broadland Growth.

Like the councils it works with, the group, which has its headquarters on St Andrew's Business Park, Norwich, has had to make efficiencies.

'Clearly we have got a challenge in that most of our customer base is ensuring its costs are kept to a minimum,' Mr Britch said. 'We are looking at finding new business, new products and services, and we are looking at making our efficiencies, seeing how we can be more productive with what we have got.

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'We are looking into the health sector and at the private sector for growth.'

Mr Britch was speaking after the publication of Norse's latest accounts, which showed profits fell for the year to March 31, down to £2.57m from £3.54m in the previous 12 months, despite a rise in revenue from £271.64m to £281.34m.

Mr Britch explained the fall in profits was down one-off restructuring costs as well as upward pressure on wages, with the company employing an average of 9,642 people.

Norse, a member of the EDP/EADT Top 100 list of companies with the highest turnover in Norfolk and Suffolk, is owned by Norfolk County Council and Mr Britch said around £4m had been paid to the council in the period.

Mr Britch highlighted waste and environmental services as well as dementia care as areas he expected to see grow over the coming months.