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Lovell to build on Scottish Executive's housing promise

NEWS - 60 second interview

Dave Simpson has been appointed operations manager for Scotland by affordable housing provider Lovell.

He talks to Joanna Booth What is you r history in the housing sector?

I started out at 17 years old with George Wimpey. I trained as a site engineer and worked for both the homes and construction businesses. I spent 20 years with the firm. I joined Lovell from house builder Redrow, where I was construction director for Scotland.

What will your new role involve?

I'll be looking after all Lovell's new build projects across Scotland. There is pure contract work for housing associations, affordable housing for sale and mixed tenure work.

The quality required is the same for them all.

The social housing market is booming. How are things going for Lovell in Scotland?

Turnover has grown from £17 million in 2002 to £45 million now. Our intention is to grow it to £100 million by 2010. Markets are looking strong across the board and the refurbishment side is going well. The Scottish Executive is committed to raising the level of local authority housing to meet the Scottish Housing Quality Standard by 2015. Lovell is heavily involved in that.

Are there similar amounts of funding being ploughed into new build?

It is not quite equal but there is a lot of work around. The housing associations apply for funding and we work in partnership with them. Part of my job is to keep those relationships going. Associations don't just go for the lowest price ? quality is important. Our biggest scheme is a £20 million mixed tenure development at Southhouse in Edinburgh. At this point 25 per cent of our work is mixed tenure and we'd like to sustain that portion.

With such a high level of growth are you experiencing difficulties finding enough skilled workers?

Lovell is very committed to taking on apprentices every year. With our level of growth we would potentially be looking for more. We also have partnering subcontractors who work regularly with us.

They move from site to site and it is like working with our own men. There is good quality labour out there.

Do you work across the whole of Scotland?

Our work is mainly concentrated in the central belt ? Edinburgh and Glasgow.

We have identified areas to expand. We're looking at Perth, Dundee and north to Aberdeen. There has always been work in those areas; Lovell just hasn't been geographically suited to cover it. I spent five years in Dundee working on mixed tenure projects so I'm comfortable with the local market.

Are modern methods of construction being widely used in Scotland?

The Scottish market has used timber frame housing since the 1970s, so, even though it's new to the rest of the country, it's accepted here. There is room to take it further with modular units, but I'm not convinced of the cost effectiveness of those.

They are manufactured in England and the cost of shipping them to Scotland means that it just isn't feasible.