The housebuilding arm of Edinburgh-based contractor the Miller Group will respond to the government's £22bn communities plan by setting up a division in the south of England, writes Mark Leftly.
Deputy prime minister John Prescott announced last week that more than £600m would be spent on increasing housing supply in four areas in the South-east in the next three years.

Miller Homes, which is the UK's largest privately owned housebuilder, has seven regional divisions. At the moment, the most southerly are in the East and West Midlands. The group believes that it needs to open a southern division to take advantage of the government's spending bonanza.

Tim Hough, managing director of Miller Homes, said: "We plan to come into southern England. I'd be surprised if we had not made some sort of announcement on this within two years."

Hough added that Miller Homes had not yet decided whether to open its own office or acquire a regional housebuilder. The group could set up its own office on the strength of a £400m deal to redevelop NHS land it secured last year. The land is mainly in southern England.

Miller's annual results for 2002, due to be released later this year, are expected to show that the housebuilding division's profit has grown for the ninth successive year. In its interim results to 30 June 2002, the company announced a pre-tax profit of £7.5m, up 142% on the £3.1m it made in the same period in 2001.

On the 1 January 2002, Miller Homes had presold 1000 units for £145m. On the same day in 2001 it had presold 515 units for £68m.

In 2002, the company built 2300 homes, up from 2030 the previous year. The company's most successful housing base is Scotland, in which it builds about 800 homes a year.