Eleanor Deeley, Deputy Managing Director of the Deeley Group, on how construction is adapting to a limited return to site working
There is no doubt that parts of the economy are beginning to show signs of life – but the tap is only being turned on very slowly.
I was on one of many recent video calls when someone said that as we end lockdown it will be a little like when you have had your boiler repaired. When you turn on tap it splutters as the pipes refill and takes a while for the flow to be resumed.
On the construction side of the Deeley Group, the announcement of lockdown and social distancing meant our tap was tightly turned off and we closed our 11 sites.
I fully appreciate that it is very difficult for Government to be clear and concise bearing in mind the myriad of unprecented measures they are bringing in at the moment but there was, at best, uncertainty as to what was essential working.
Also, the advice that work would continue also came with a heavy hint that there was little understanding as to how a site works and that did cause concern in the industry.
Slowly the sector got to grips with exactly how we could continue working to a level while strictly adhering to the social distancing rules. That has, inevitably, meant big changes in how we work.
For example, signing in is now by text rather than an electronic fingerprint system; canteens are closed; site times, break times and lunch times are staggered; we can only have 10-30 per cent of the number of people on site to allow for social distancing.
There have been struggles getting materials – especially plasterboard – and many of the builders’ merchants were closed until very recently. That is all easing and the supply of UK-produced goods is getting much better, but there will be times when we are held up by the absence of products such as lifts or air-conditioning units, which have to be imported.
Interestingly, in a world of sub-contractors, there has been a total regard for the health and wellbeing of staff, which has been refreshing to witness particularly when, at the same time, there were images from major construction projects where workers paying no attention to the guidance.
Sub-contractors are only coming back to sites where they are confident that social distancing can be maintained and, when it can’t, there is suitable PPE used by all.
But no-one should be under the impression that this means we are back to normal. Social distancing is likely to remain in place for many months to come and this means that the rate of construction is going to remain low because of the limited numbers on site.
As ever, industry is going to have to find a way to overcome the hurdle. We might need
to extend working hours as we have the longer evenings arriving, almost operating a two-shift system to maximise the number of working hours on site.
I think an increase in weekend working is almost inevitable, but that will not only allow us to maintain progress as much as possible but it will also allow sub-contractors to earn, which will very welcome after the last two months.
Equally inevitable will be increased costs because efficient sequencing of a build will not be possible given the restrictions in place and the equipment shortages.
There are also other more trivial, but still important, consequences. Spirit on a site is always important but with people working alone we simply cannot interact in the same way.
There is going to be part of our morale that is absent as we miss the joke that we don’t hear, and the catch up over a coffee during a break.
But that is a small price to pay.
Eleanor Deeley, Deputy Managing Director of the Deeley Group, casts her eye over how the planning system is adjusting to life in lockdown
At a time when people have been panic buying shopping for toilet rolls, cutting their own hair and congregating for karaoke parties during the lockdown, it is refreshing – and indeed rare – to highlight the planning structure as a model of good sense.
Despite the tragic events which have crippled countries across the globe and robbed families of loved ones, other aspects of life have to try to operate as normal or at least adapt to the unique circumstances in which we find ourselves.
I think everyone has been pleasantly surprised, for example, how quickly people have adjusted to working from home and meeting virtually.
It would have been all too easy for development and construction to grind to a total halt. While many of the aspects of the profession have been rendered impossible through restrictions, the Government flexing planning regulations has allowed a great deal of work to continue when otherwise it would have been forced to cease.
The change has allowed more planning matters to be agreed under delegated powers which means that there continues to be a flow of applications being processed.
As with all aspects of business during the lockdown period, precise preparation and clear communication are vital in ensuring officers have as full a picture as possible allowing them to be comfortable they are able to make the right decisions.
The changes to planning regulations have also given council’s certain freedoms to decide the best ways to operate within guidelines.
Planning meetings can, for example, be held remotely with members logging in over the internet or on the telephone. The location of a meeting can now be defined digitally such as a web address or video conference call rather than a physical place.
As long as committee members, officers and applicants can hear and be heard then a meeting can go ahead. Contributions from the members of the public if they are allowed to speak can be registered in advantage.
I wonder how many times committees would like to have had a “mute facility” at their disposal in real meetings!
Public consultations are, by their very nature, far harder to carry out during lockdown yet the Local Government Association Planning Advisory Service has urged local authorities to press on employing social media, interactive maps and online information, and utilising virtual groups through channels such as Facebook.
These are still early days relative to public consultations and there are more formal and structured elements to the process which may not be able to be conducted remotely, and there is talk of guidance being flexed to make that possible should this situation continue.
There are elements which have proved trickier to overcome. Some smaller councils do not have it within their constitution to make decisions without a physical meeting while traffic counts – a key factor in planning applications and consents – are impossible to measure when we are restricted to essential journeys only.
Again, if lockdown continues then the system will have to adapt and research has shown that more than three quarters of councillors are behind the process continuing virtually until the crisis is behind us.
What this dreadful time has shown is that, when the pressure is on and needs must, the planning system, which at times seems massively inflexible, can be shaped and moulded to mutual benefit.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if that spirit of understanding and mutual working continued long after this horrible period is over?
In our latest blog, Elaine Freeman, designer at top interiors specialists Open Door Interiors, discusses the inspiration behind the interior design for the Deeley Homes development, The Meadows at Pillerton Priors.
When we were first outlining the interior design for the show home, the first elements to consider were the location and the stunning surrounding countryside which plays a key role in making The Meadows so impressive.
The colours, textures and patterns we picked were designed to bring in certain aspects of the surrounding landscape into the rooms, with rich emerald greens used to achieve a contemporary yet classic look.
This is particularly true of the wallpaper featured in the study – the emerald green uses a stunning crocodile effect to create a sense of depth and texture to ensure the room comes with an atmosphere which is conducive to home working.
We have featured bold elements throughout the property, with striking brass touches and natural-wash woods to contrast with a more elegant feel in the entrance hall and staircase.
The natural colours of the wash-wood creates a real sense of bringing the countryside to the interior and, in pairing it with a smart edge to the finishing lines of the rooms, it creates a very classic look, with a more modern and up-to-date twist without it being a slave to fashion.
The properties feel very ‘on-trend’ with the use of funky, bold colours that create a strong impact and are weaved throughout the homes, even through to the guest bathroom and hallway.
One of my favourite aspects of our work at The Meadows is the use of fabric wallpaper, which is becoming more popular as a simple, yet effective, way to really make a statement when decorating.
The velvet wall fabric used here evokes a more natural look and creates a sense of elegance for the property, adding a slightly more feminine touch to the décor.
The homes at The Meadows are finished to a high specification, using the best local materials with views across the stunning open countryside, which to us, was an aspect of each home that we really wanted to emphasise in the design.
For more information on The Meadows, Pillerton Priors, visit: https://www.themeadowspillerton.co.uk/
This has been another successful year for the Deeley Group with – we hope – some good news just around the corner in 2020.
We have developed a strong pipeline of work through Deeley Construction with a number of wins and we believe we are well placed for that to continue over the next 12 months, whatever might be on the political horizon!
A great deal of thanks should go to Martin Gallagher and his team who have taken Construction from strength to strength.
Deeley Homes has been revitalised and is extremely busy. The division successfully launched its first development for a number of years – The Meadows at Pillerton Priors – and it is selling very well.
Moreton Edge, in the heart of Moreton-in-Marsh, will launch next year and we are confident it will prove just as popular.
We were joined by Eleanor Deeley in the autumn not only bringing 20 years of national property experience but also ensuring the guiding principles of the company are maintained.
As the year draws to a close, we heard that Fordham House, which we developed and built in partnership with Orbit, has won a second national award, while Deeley Construction has been appointed to the University of Warwick’s Lot 1 Capital Programme Framework for projects up to the value of £2 million over the next five years across the site, as one of only three Tier 1 contractors.
I would like to thank all our clients, partners and colleagues for all the work and co-operation and wish everyone a very happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.
Peter Deeley, Managing Director
The strength of the manufacturing and industrial sector across the country has seen a Coventry construction company land £11 million worth of contracts.
Deeley Construction is working on more than 135,000 sq. ft. of much needed employment space at four new, bespoke industrial developments at locations across Coventry, Warwickshire, Rutland and Buckinghamshire.
They range from design-and-build projects for owner/occupiers through to speculative builds on behalf of developers.
The company is working with AC Lloyd at Kites Park in Princes Risborough on the creation of a £5.4 million scheme to create in total nearly 70,000 sq. ft. of warehouse & office space.
Deeley Construction is also on-site on a workshop unit in Water Orton in North Warwickshire on behalf of Flexdart Ltd, which has seen the demolition of existing buildings and the creation of a new 19,485 sq. ft. unit.
Flexdart is traditionally a scrap metal merchant which is branching out into property development and selected Deeley Construction thanks to the firm’s agility and flexibility to deliver the project.
Deeley is working for Mecc Alte (UK) directly on its new £2.9 million design-and-build industrial unit in Oakham, Rutland and also on a £1.4 million scheme of workshop units to expand the Loades Ecoparc in Coventry.
In each area, the firm is utilising the local labour force which has a positive knock-on effect for the local community and economy.
Peter Deeley, Managing Director of the Deeley Group, said the company is perfectly placed to deliver new industrial and warehouse units as that area of the economy continues to grow.
He said: “The feeling is that there is still a shortage of industrial and warehouse space in this region and further afield to meet the demand of SME’s who wish to expand their operations.
“We fit into a niche category of providing the construction of sub 50,000 sq. ft. units which enables these businesses to grow.
“Deeley Construction has landed this work thanks to the reliability and integrity of the team both through an active tendering process and negotiated contracts.
“Our aim is to be more than a contractor and to become a partner on any given project. As a group, we also have the ability to bring land and build package deals to any interested parties.
“That is one of the reasons we were successful in landing these contracts and it’s certainly a very positive area of business for the company.”
A Coventry construction company has continued its commitment to bringing forward the next generation of talent in the industry.
Deeley Construction, which is based at George House at Coventry Business Park, has taken on three new apprentices to assist with the firm’s continued growth.
Charlie Stevens and Matt Byrne are both management trainees with the company and Katie-May Cashmore is a trainee accounts assistant.
Charlie is undertaking a Construction Management Degree at Birmingham City University, while Matt is studying for a BTEC Diploma in Construction Level 3 at South & City College Birmingham. Katie-May is completing an AAT Diploma Level 2 at Coventry College City Campus.
The trio continue a long-held tradition at Deeley Construction of growing its own workforce with almost 20 per cent of the company’s staff coming through the firm as an apprentice.
It’s a proud record that includes managing director Martin Gallagher, who welcomed Charlie, Matt and Katie-May to the company.
Martin said: “The skills shortage in construction is one of the biggest issues facing our industry but here at Deeley Construction we have always seen apprenticeships as a great route to growing our own and the industry’s future workforce.
“I know only too well the benefits of being an apprentice having started my career as one. It gave me the opportunity to work my way up through the business to the point where I am now able to give others the same chance I had.
“It’s great that Charlie, Matt and Katie-May want to develop a career in construction and also highlights that there are many roles in our sector from being out on-site through to being based in the office.
“As a company, we continue to grow and the addition of three new apprentices is a perfect way for us to start looking ahead to 2018.”
Pictured (left to right): Charlie Stevens, Katie-May Cashmore, Martin Gallagher, Matt Byrne
A boom in infrastructure projects is set to keep output in the West Midlands construction industry growing over the next five years, according to a report.
The forecast from the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) says that road and rail projects will see output in the infrastructure sector soaring by more than 10% each year over the 2017-2021 period.
The massive £11 billion High Speed 2 rail link will make a substantial contribution to the gain, says CITB’s Construction Skills Network report.
A £1.8bn road improvement programme will also give the sector a boost, with works including the £335m motorway upgrades to the M6.
The CITB says that these big projects mean that overall construction output is forecast to grow at an annual average rate of 1.3% per year for the next five years, with 14,000 jobs created.
Its report forecasts that the most in-demand roles in the West Midlands construction sector between 2017-21 include carpenters, electricians, and construction process managers (+1,550). There will also be significant demand for scaffolders, construction trades supervisors, labourers and surveyors.
One of our region’s companies the Deeley Group – which specialises in construction and property development – has been in business for more than eight decades in Coventry and Warwickshire.
Not only does that provide the company with a fine pedigree in all sectors of industry but also allows it to be an accurate judge of the area’s economy.
The Deeley Group is currently undertaking projects for HORIBA MIRA in the very north of the county through to a new 82-bed private rental apartment scheme for Orbit in Stratford-upon-Avon – with lots in between.
That not only underlines the expertise of the Deeley Group but, according to managing director Peter Deeley, shows that industry in Coventry and Warwickshire is doing well.
He said: “Economically we are the hometo a myriad of successful companies and certainly our advanced manufacturing and engineering firms – many involved in automotive – are leading the way.
“That has been fuelled by several factors. Clearly expanding markets have played a part, but Jaguar Land Rover is now a global brand and has clearly upped its game in terms of design, engineering and build quality.
“With Aston Martin, Geely, BMW and HORIBA MIRA – and many of their supply chain – also in Coventry and Warwickshire, we are undoubtedly a global force in that sector and that fuels inward investment and, consequently, development.”
Deeley has performed strongly in the education sector in recent years undertaking projects for
both The University of Warwick and Coventry University, Warwick School, Warwickshire College Group and various academies.
One project – the creation of student accommodation at Warwickshire College Group’s Royal Leamington Spa College campus – only came to fruition because of Deeley’s contacts and experience in dealing with pension and investment funds.
Peter added: “The college was looking to a development team in the private sector to fund such a scale of operation. So we put forward a structured package of funding, designing and building of the units. After talks with the college, the fund we introduced purchased 100 existing student units and we are building 100 now.
“So the funder will end with an investment of 200 student units in a very good location in the centre of Leamington, where property values make that an attractive investment proposition.
“The significance is that it really shows what local companies can provide when it comes to need. In short, if you have the requirement for a new building or housing there are always ways of providing funding and the ability to deliver.
“It is a specialised area but we understand the way the funds need to be structured. We believe we have an overall view of development that allows us to structure a package so all requirements are met. The college has its student accommodation, Deeley Construction is completing a sizeable building contract and the funder has a good investment.”
The CITB public non-housing sector is forecast to grow at an annual average rate of 3.6% in the short-term. A number of large projects will support expansion including the £500m Birmingham University campus redevelopment and a £37m science and health building at
Coventry University, due for completion this year, says the CITB.
Lorraine Gregory, CITB Partnerships Manager for the West Midlands, said: “Although there is economic uncertainty, the West Midlands construction sector is set for growth, particularly in infrastructure.
“The outlook is positive because of a number of major projects either under way or in the pipeline. The biggest is HS2 which will provide multiple spin-offs in housing, business and recruitment opportunities.
“These projects and the job opportunities contractors are telling us about means this is a very good time to pursue a career in the construction industry.
“CITB will continue working with employers to attract new talent into the construction industry and to train them for rewarding careers in the sector.”
Picture caption: Warwick Hall, Warwick School.
Deeley Construction has helped take Orbit over the half-way point to achieving its target of developing 12,000 new homes by 2020.
The handover and completion of three family homes at Union Park, in Leamington Spa, means one of the UK’s largest developing housing associations has now delivered 6,000 new homes since April 2013.
Union Park is a £29m development of 147 family homes on the former Soans’ motor dealership site in Sydenham, and is due for completion in spring 2018.
Martin Gallagher, managing director at Deeley Construction, said: “We are extremely proud that we are helping Orbit reach this milestone which is of national importance in the campaign to solve our housing crisis.
“The homes will meet a very real need for people in the area who want to live locally but would, without schemes such as this, be unable to do so.”
Offering canal-side living, Union Park will bring 55 homes to the open market, as well as 39 homes available for shared ownership (part buy, part rent) and 53 for affordable rent.
Chris Jones, development director at Orbit, added: “These homes bring us half way to our target of delivering 12,000 new homes across the Midlands, east and south by 2020.
“This fantastic achievement highlights the acceleration of our sector-leading development programme as well as the hard work of our teams across the country.
“Union Park is a unique development in Leamington, providing more housing options and quality homes to meet people’s needs and aspirations.”