STEWART Milne's attempts to expand into England as part of the Scottish house builder's plans to double in size by 2010 are taking longer than expected.
The firm, which lifted pre-tax profits by £3 million to a record £20 million in the year to June 2005 on turnover rising £28 million to £217 million, wanted to be in England by this year.
Owner Stewart Milne said: 'We are seeking to expand the group's geographical operation and are now entering phase two of a three-phase approach to providing a full picture of the English marketplace.
'This will lead us to establishing a new homes operation in England.' The first phase of the expansion plan was the opening of a timber frame factory in Witney, Oxfordshire. This is up and running and the firm is looking for a site for a second factory while also negotiating land swap deals with English house builders.
These deals have taken longer than expected and the southern expansion will take another 18 months.
In Scotland the firm has two housing arms. The operation in the Scottish central belt generated sales totalling £78.3 million last year ? up 11 per cent.
Sales at the north of Scotland homes business rose 18 per cent to £65.4 million.
Stewart Milne Group managing director Glenn Allison said: 'In terms of the market going forward, we see the current imbalance of supply and demand coupled with consistent low interest rates continuing to fuel demand.
'But we expect only modest growth in house prices over the next 18 months and we anticipate our profit growth to come through increased volumes.' The rest of Stewart Milne's turnover comes from the Witney factory, another timber frame plant in Aberdeen and the group's contracting and development divisions.