The chief executive of Cala Homes gives his opinion on what 2014 holds for his business
How sustainable do you believe the economic recovery to be?
I think it is sustainable. As the housing industry grows, people are opening up more factories to produce goods for our industry, and that’s having a positive effect on everybody. Furthermore there’s a shortage of housing in the UK, so by definition there’s a pent-up demand.
What do you see as the biggest opportunities for your business next year? Where is growth going to come from?
We intend to nearly double the size of our business between now and 2017, and the biggest jump of that will be in 2014. We’ve actually acquired something like £500m worth of turnover in the last six months, in terms of acquired sites, so we’ll be seeing an increase of site starts of about 30-50%.
What do you think the greatest danger to your business will be in 2014?
Capacity and availability of labour is one of our biggest concerns at the moment. A lot of people left the industry when the market crashed, so we need to attract them back into the industry, as well as nurture what we have.
What do you think the construction industry could do to help itself in 2014?
We don’t get as many apprentices or students as we need, and I think we need to sell ourselves in all areas of the industry more effectively. [Cala] have begun to take on graduate trainees in all of our operations, as a result of this very fact.
What single realistic policy change from the government would make the biggest difference to your business next year?
Something that forces local authorities to get planning conditions approved quickly. The number of planning applications approvals has gone up 31% in the last quarter, and in the last 12 months the country has approved 170,000 homes to be built. But getting planning conditions clear just takes forever.
Alan Brown is chief executive of Cala Homes