The latest chatter around the industry

Hansom new 2008

The eternal optimist

If the recent spate of new housing policies coming out of DLUHC had not made it clear already, 2024 is likely to be an election year. Everyone’s favourite secretary of state recently found himself at the mercy of Britain’s geriatric upper chamber. Appearing in front of the House of Lords built environment committee, Michael Gove was quizzed about when he was going to reform the nutrient neutrality laws that have been plaguing housebuilders. While Gove was unable to commit to solving the issue within this parliament, he did promise to agitate for a change to law “when the government is re-elected later this year”. Committee chair Lord Daniel Moylan wryly responded: “My Lords, you may have heard the Conservative party’s first manifesto commitment.”

Match point

Almacantar chief executive and former Landsec managing director Mike Hussey was on the panel for a debate on retrofit at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors last month, where he delighted attendees with a series of increasingly tangential anecdotes. He said he was so fed up with the planning system while at Landsec that he had asked the head of the planning inspectorate to drum up some government funding to revolutionise the planning sector, promising that the property industry would match fund whatever was raised. “I’m really nervous about what you just promised,” Landsec’s chief executive at the time had told him. He needn’t have worried - the inspector’s haul secured from ministers after three weeks of negotiations was a grand total of £25,000.

While Gove was unable to commit to solving the nutrient neutrality issue within this parliament, he did promise to agitate for a change to law ‘when the government is re-elected later this year’

Hussey’s rule

Hussey moved on to his time developing Deloitte’s office at New Street Square in the mid-2000s, when Landsec introduced the concept of pre-stressed concrete on the scheme. This did not go down well with the commercial agents, who said occupiers would not rent the space because it would not be compliant with British Council for Offices rules. So they were changed, Hussey said, adding: “I happened to be president at the time.” Which was convenient.

Hi vis

What is it with Mace sites and politicians? First, the prime minister turns up for a ground-breaking ceremony at its scheme on the site of the former Lansdowne House in Berkeley Square which will become the new European HQ of US investor Blackstone. And last week, Labour leader Keir Starmer and his shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves popped up at 81 Newgate, set to be the new HQ of HSBC. Either the PM and his would-be successor like a nose around a site or Mace must have friends in high places.

Fool’s paradise

Guess what? Another Tory plan to bring back Boris and ditch Rishi. The latest incarnation is led by Lady Judith McAlpine, widow of construction’s Sir William McAlpine a former director of Concrete Bob. Lady McAlpine told the Mail on Sunday: “As far as I am concerned the Tory party is rotten to the core. We need new Conservative values, and Boris is the person to deliver that. He is the only person with the charisma to lead the party to success. We need Boris back.” Given he picked up £2.4m for a speaking tour of the US last year, can Boris afford to? Wallpaper is terribly expensive stuff these days.

Where will it end?

Sometimes plain English will do. The decision not to run HS2 into Euston, as intended, and instead terminate it at Old Oak Common, a few miles west, continues to prompt head-scratching. Diplomatic niceties are usually observed in such situations but Keller chief executive Michael Speakman surely spoke for many when he called the move in one word: “Bonkers.”

Lost on the wharf

A recent visit to Canary Wharf for my hack and, I’m afraid, he tells me he’s still bewildered trying to navigate a way through it. Still, he’s not alone. Thinking the local coffee seller outside Canary Wharf tube station must surely know where such and such a place on the estate was, he was a bit crestfallen with the reply. “No idea, mate.” Great.

Staff retention

Galliford Try’s genial finance director Andrew Duxbury is leaving to take up the CFO role at Persimmon soon. Quite when is not clear. It was announced last November and my hack took the opportunity to find out exactly when at last week’s interim results call with Duxbury and chief executive Bill Hocking. “When Bill lets me go,” Duxbury quipped.

Do you dig it?

Rishi for HansomCMYK

Another construction site, another visit by the prime minister. This time he was at a ground-breaking ceremony for an industrial and logistics park in Swindon being developed by Panattoni. Will, I wonder, Sunak’s new-found enthusiasm for construction see a site visit to the biggest one of the lot, HS2? I’m not holding my breath.

Send any juicy industry gossip to Mr Joseph Aloysius Hansom, who founded Building in 1843, at