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Cala CEO: Approvals bigger problem than skills for housing

The chief executive of Cala Homes has said the lack of planning permissions is a bigger concern for the housebuilding industry than a shortage of skills.

Speaking to Construction News, Alan Brown said: “Why are people worrying about something that is three years down the line?”

He said the housebuilding industry and government should instead be concerned about the low levels of planning permissions being approved.

“It’s not as if there are 500,000 planning approvals out there that the industry can’t build because of a skills shortage or supply chain problem,” he said.

“The only reason we can’t build enough houses is because there aren’t enough planning permissions.”

The high-end housebuilder has a landbank of around 13,500 plots.

“There’s not a single site that I’m not building on, that I can build on,” Mr Brown added.

He said the housebuilding industry “was going in the right direction of travel” with the “brave” implementation of the National Planning Policy Framework.

But he said gaining planning consents was still a “long” and “difficult” process.

Mr Brown stressed that the housebuilding industry needed stability following the general election.

For that reason he said a Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition would be the best result for the housing market.

“That’s not necessarily because they have the best polices but it’s because nothing will change [and] there’s no doubt the coalition gets what the [industry’s] issues are,” he said.

Mr Brown was talking one year on from the company’s acquisition of luxury housebuilder Banner Homes, which he said had been “far more positive” than he would have hoped.

“Whenever you take over a business people become uncertain so [I explained to the staff], ‘I can’t guarantee no one will lose their jobs, but what I can say is it’ll be less than 10 people’.”

Banner Homes sat at the top of a list of 12 companies Cala Homes was eyeing for a potential acquisition.

Asked whether the acquisition was a brave decision for the company at a time when other housebuilders were proceeding with caution following the recession, the chief executive said: “No, it was the right thing to do – we wanted to get that critical mass and we are [already] starting to see the benefits of that.”

The company will have a turnover of over £500m by the end of this financial year, with a target to grow this to £800m by the end of 2017.

Cala Homes is expecting to deliver just under 1000 homes for the year, with hopes to grow this figure to 2,000 homes by the end of 2017.

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