Where are all the builders?

Another year, but still the same old problems for the construction industry as a skills shortage continues to prevent the industry growing says development specialist Richard Carr.

Planning permissions reach record high

Richard Carr Builders

Where are all the builders?

Based on a study commissioned by the Local Government Association, planning permissions from last year were up 25% on three years ago. However, almost half million approved homes remain empty spaces yet to be constructed upon.

Richard Carr believes that this highlights the many barriers that both developers and home building firms currently face. The main hurdle – and one that has plagued the industry for many years – is a dire skills shortage. Last year councils granted 212,478 planning permissions for homes, but a lack of skills, increased costs and cuts to margins has seen building slow down.

Extra taxes

Richard Carr has worked in the industry for over 30 years and is currently spearheading a £100m redevelopment of Salterns Marina, Poole. He strongly feels that the government’s insistence on taxing developers for anything they can is seriously damaging their own aims of increasing housebuilding to 200,000 homes a year.

Charles Mills, head of planning at the Daniel Whatney consultancy, agreed: “Placing an additional tax on development will not have the desired effect of speeding up development, but is likely to deter it altogether.”

Skills

Richard Carr also believes that enough isn’t been done in schools to make careers in the construction industry attractive to youngsters. He believes that schools are driving youngsters into higher education and university when instead they should be far more balanced and illustrating the opportunities in other fields.

Noble Francis of the Construction Products Association believes that the skills shortage is the “key constraint” to housebuilding. His claims are backed up by the fact that 362,464 fewer people worked in the field than at the economy’s peak seven years ago.

“Even where skills are available, the labour cost rises have hit margins for housebuilders,” Mr Francis added. Richard Carr further adds that with such a large influx of unskilled refugees is this not a golden opportunity to create a skilled workforce to build homes?