Miller Homes has come a long way from its Edinburgh roots. So far, in fact, that it added a southern division to its seven regions at the start of the year. Ian Beal, former regional managing director with Wilson Connolly and Redrow, is heading the new operation
Why set up a new division in the highly competitive South?

Our existing regions have capacity for growth, but we need to look beyond that. It is part of the strategy for 2007 and beyond. The company is targeting the South and the M1/M11 corridor. We've already looked at a few acquisitions, but in the meantime we established the southern division so that we can continue to grow.

What geographical area does the southern region cover?

We cover Hampshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Wiltshire, Dorset, Surrey and West Sussex – we're based in Basingstoke.

What staff resources do you have?

We're recruiting in line with the region's progression. So far our focus has been on renewing contracts and looking at land opportunities. We have: myself, technical and land expertise, and a secretary. We'll be looking for construction expertise next.

Have you made any site acquisitions?

We've bought an eight-unit site in Newbury, and have had offers accepted on another six sites. We're evaluating up to another 1000 plots at the moment.

We've jumped in a big way. Our typical sites are garden assemblies, land bought from other developers and open-market schemes. We've not got any strategic land so we're dependent on buying from other developers. But the advantage is we have no baggage from the past.

How long before you sell your first unit?

The first legal completions are planned for early next year.

What are your development targets?

We're looking to do 60 legal completions by the close of 2005. I can't see a problem in achieving that. The year after, we're aiming for 150 or more units and the year after that, 250 units. We should be developing a £50m turnover business within a three-year period.

What will Miller's product be in the South?

We're aiming at the middle market, 1000 ft2 houses. As we build up the division, we'll be able to look at larger, flatted schemes. We'll be looking at everything from affordable housing to executive homes.

What type of company acquisition would Miller be looking for?

Anyone operating in the right areas, and which has a landbank – even if they are operating in a small area. They would need to fit our plans, rather than vice versa.

When will the other new regional office open?

We can't do the two at once. Probably in 12-18 months' time. Both the new regions will be performing by 2007.


The government’s plans to tackle the country’s profound housing shortage are necessary, but should not be pursued at any cost. Insurers want long-term risks such as flooding and climate change built into the design of new developments at the earliest stage, so that effective financial protection can be offered to residents and businesses.

Kate Barker’s report to the government last month highlighted the depth of the UK’s housing shortage, and the knock-on effect for house prices. Housebuilding rates need to almost double, from 140,000 to 260,000 a year, to stabilise increases in real house prices at 1.1 % – in line with the European Union average.

"Increased development could increase exposure to tidal flood risk"

This is a phenomenal challenge, but essential if we are to achieve economic stability and reduce social exclusion in the poorest communities. There are two key strands to the government’s policy to change housebuilding rates.

The greater availability of land for development is critical. In the communities plan published last year, the government set out a range of policies to deliver hundreds of thousands of new homes over the next 10 years in key growth areas in the South-east. About 120,000 homes will be located in Thames Gateway, much of it in the Thames tidal floodplain.

The insurance industry has questioned the sustainability of these plans. Climate change will increase sea levels and storm surge heights, and could require significant increases in flood-defence spending to protect the area. Even if Thames Gateway sites are defended to the current very high standard (0.1% annual probability), increased development could increase exposure to tidal flood risk, adding £1bn to the potential flood damage. The Environment Agency’s Thames Estuary 2100 study is looking specifically at flood-risk management in the area.

Accumulating exposures could make it difficult for insurers to provide long-term, affordable flood-cover for homes in Thames Gateway. The Association of British Insurers has begun discussions with the government on this issue, and is confident that a solution can be found.

Flood-risk management must take climate change into account. Regional strategies, such as the London Plan, recommend that developments are set back from the river’s edge to allow for the replacement and upgrading of defences.

Innovative construction techniques offer another way to speed-up building and reduce costs. The Housing Corporation has a target that at least 25% of grant-funded homes from 2004 will be built using “modern methods of construction”. But with new technological approaches, there are risks and uncertainties to be managed.

Off-site, modular homes can offer considerable cost-savings and reduce project time. But it is important that we understand the longevity of these homes, and their resilience to flooding and other weather hazards.

Insurers and lenders are supporting development of an independent certification scheme for modern methods of construction, which will provide recognised reassurance on designs that we have little experience of in the UK. This scheme could provide a market mechanism for dealing with these new risks.


Hospital sites

A hundred have been transferred to the ODPM to fuel housebuilding growth


Having a nice day, and year, after cannily taking UK regeneration skills to the USA

Outline planning permission

Instead of ditching them as planned, government wants them to be more comprehensive. Oh dear

The UK economy

Economic forecaster CEBR is putting the risk of a hard landing at 20%. Parachute anyone?