A CBE follows a long varied career that’s crossed from mining to the HCA via Redland and the WWF

Can Robert Napier build 240,000 homes a year and run the new government agency in the toughest housing market since the seventies? asked Building two years ago. The answer so far is no, but a fine CV has garnered the Homes & Communities Agency chairman a CBE in this morning’s New Year Honour’s list.

Napier’s career saw him take high profile roles in the private sector, from mining giant Rio Tinto to chief executive at building materials group Redland, before moving to the charities sector with the WWF in 1999.

The HCA was formed through a merger of the Housing Corporation and English Partnerships, where he was chairman, in December 2008. In that interview, Napier fought off questions over how his well-known love of unspoilt countryside could possibly square with a role that is tasked with overseeing the construction of up to 3m homes.

“Come on,” he answered. “It’s perfectly possible to build the homes we need without wholesale destruction of the countryside.”

With a CBE in his pocket, people high up must believe he is right.