As the country enters into another national lockdown, John Anderson, CEO of the Larkfleet Group, discusses the support on offer for the construction industry and the importance of keeping the sector up and running during the pandemic.
As Covid-19 cases continue to rise across England, the government has imposed a second national lockdown. This time, the government has chosen to allow the construction industry to continue working, stating: “This is essential to keeping the country operating and supporting vital sectors and employers”.
Housing Secretary, The Rt Hon Robert Jenrick, added: “I can confirm that the housing market will remain open throughout this period as will construction sites, building the homes and sustaining the jobs we desperately need.”
John Anderson, CEO of the Larkfleet Group, which is a housebuilder and developer based in Bourne, Lincolnshire, praises this decision, stating: “Keeping the construction and housing industry open during the lockdown is essential. The economy has been hit hard by the pandemic, but the housing market can help recovery as for every £1 spent on house building, £5 of economic benefit is generated.
“There is also still a clear requirement for housing and the reservations for houses at Larkfleet are up 103% and 95% in July and August respectively from last year, showing the high demand for homes. In fact, our organisation is experiencing rapid growth this year despite the pandemic. In the next few months alone, we have three developments launching in Thorney, Oakham and Wittering and have seen lots of interest especially given the Stamp Duty holiday imposed by the government. We also continue to work closely with Homes England as a key partner in our ambitions to grow as a sustainable multi-tenure home builder.”
Building is a key priority for the government who announced their ‘build, build, build’ plan to reform the planning system and make it easier to build better homes earlier this year. John said: “It’s important we keep up the momentum. As part of this plan, the government is launching an affordable homes programme and the Home Building Fund is also offering access to finance for smaller developers. We are actually one of the first companies in the UK to secure permission for two ‘entry-level’ sites at Hackleton and Morton where 100% of houses will be affordable. Support like this and work on site needs to continue throughout the year to ensure the national housing quota is reached.”
Co-founder and Chairman of The Larkfleet Group, Karl Hick, recently featured in the Parliamentary Review, discussing the Group’s expansion plans.
John also highlighted the benefits of continuing work for employees. He said: “The industry can sufficiently safeguard employees as scientific research found that outside work is significantly safer, and much of the work can be completed whilst social distancing.
“By keeping our employees safe in work, it not only supports their income and families but also their mental health. Working on a building site has become the deadliest profession in the UK with more than one worker a day taking their own life and we are passionate about doing everything we can to protect our employees and are glad to see the government doing the same.
“It is also welcome to see the government has changed the criteria for testing, meaning our construction workers can now easily access a test if they show symptoms, ensuring we can look protect our workforce.”
John praised the array of government support on offer for the second lockdown, stating: “The nationwide extension of the furlough scheme which covers 80% of salaries for hours not worked, will no doubt help many people in the industry. Alongside this, they are extending the application deadline for loan guarantee schemes which will help support activity in the sector and the mortgage payment and stamp duty holidays will help our customers and encourage buyers.”
However, it is not all smooth sailing. The industry remains faced with the challenges of limited workforces due to isolation rules as well as supply delays. John said: “It is imperative that not just building continues, but that the whole industry remains operating. This includes our office staff and suppliers to ensure we have the materials, expertise and resources that we need to build and repair our homes and services.”
John added: “While we will continue to face tough times ahead, our ethos remains to build a sustainable future for our communities so with the government’s assistance facilitating the resurgence of the industry, we will remain open and continue offering much-needed jobs and homes to the public, as well as stability for the economy and research into greener technology for the future.
“Thank you to our customers, our team and all our key partners and stakeholders for your support during these challenging times.”