Robert Smith of Hays Montrose reports on the latest projects and current trends in the north London and Home Counties market
These days the whole North London and Home Counties region seems to echo with the same sentiment: "Out with the old and in with the new." Regeneration projects are in full swing across the region, giving a much needed facelift to many neglected and outdated developments. Commercial and residential properties are being rebuilt, town centres redeveloped, and listed buildings refurbished, demonstrating a clear market trend that is bridging all sectors.
By far the largest continuing project in north London is the Wembley national stadium. Main contractor Multiplex has already hired hundreds of subcontractors to keep the project moving ahead, and if you include the development of the surrounding trading estates, the project will be worth £1.5bn upon completion.
An increase in speculative commercial investment in the region has also led to a surge in residential and retail development. Denham Garden Village is a development of 326 mixed-tenure homes, new shops and restaurants aimed at the over 55s. Headed up by Willmott Dixon, the project began in June 2004 and is scheduled for completion by late 2009 at a cost of £60m. Along similar lines, Crest Nicholson is managing a £50m development called Shenley Lane comprising 600 residential and retail units and scheduled for completion in December 2005.
Another high-profile project is the redevelopment of Ascot Racecourse. At a cost of £200m, the racecourse is being managed by HBG Construction, and it plans to complete the project by summer 2006.
With so many projects on site, employment opportunities are abundant in the region. Quantity surveyors, estimators, project managers, and site managers are all in high demand as there is a considerable shortage of qualified candidates. Hays recently encountered this problem when filling a senior site manager position for a leading building company. The client required an individual with at least three years' experience as a site manager, ideally with a proven track record during that time working with one company, and with either a trade background or a good related academic background. The package available was about £37,500 including car allowance, pension, and healthcare. Hays' construction and property office manager Phil Sales says: "It was extremely difficult to find the right person for this position. The client interviewed seven people through us before finding the right one." They eventually settled on a 29-year-old candidate who had five years' experience as a site manager, and six years' prior experience working as a carpenter and foreman.
Another difficult position for Hays to fill was for an assistant QS in Reading. The salary was £15,000 with the prospect of a full-time role and promotion upon successful completion. Applicants must have completed a BSc in Quantity Surveying and have had at least one year's experience. However, the company were looking to source locally, thereby depleting an already limited candidate pool. In order to find someone locally the company eventually settled on a 24-year-old with less than one year's experience within the field.
As new government and privately funded works are being forecast for the new year, the demand for a qualified skilled labour force will only continue to rise. Coupled with the continuing rise in salaries across the sector, the outlook for undergraduates and seasoned professionals looks promising.