Abbotswood Properties

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Abbotswood Properties's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Abbotswood Properties is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
46 | ABBOTSWOOD PROPERTIES
Director Ann Hauser
Working on projects
across Hampshire
Abbotswood Properties is a family-run housebuilding
company based in Hampshire. Director Ann Hauser tells
The Parliamentary Review
that Abbotswood has managed
to remain successful, in contrast to other SME housebuilders
in the country. Ann discusses the difficulties facing the UK
housebuilding industry – including legislation, recruitment and
the financing of projects.
Established as a housebuilder in 1983, Abbotswood Properties has weathered the
storms of two recessions, increased red tape and financial difficulties to name a
few. These challenges have caused the demise of 75 per cent of SME housebuilders
from 1988 to date, a staggering two thirds of them going to the wall between
2007 and 2009.
Being led by two multiskilled architects, one with extensive construction
experience, provided a strong start. In the early 1980s, the complex current
legislation at both central and local government level had yet to appear. Banks
were often managed at a local level by pragmatic, benevolent lenders. Surviving
the harsh recession of the early 1990s, gradually a profitable track record
emerged. By anticipating problems and being risk-averse, we developed high levels
of trust with our lenders.
Building our reputation
Maintaining our values of design and quality ahead of profit, and refining our
traditional construction methodology, we gained a reputation for attractive,
easily maintained homes as refuge, every square inch working hard for itsliving.
FACTS ABOUT
ABBOTSWOOD PROPERTIES
»Director: Ann Hauser
»Established in 1983
»Based in Hampshire
»Services: Housebuilding and
property maintenance
»No. of employees: 20
Abbotswood
Properties
BEST PRACTICE SPONSOR 2020
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
46 | ABBOTSWOOD PROPERTIES
Director Ann Hauser
Working on projects
across Hampshire
Abbotswood Properties is a family-run housebuilding
company based in Hampshire. Director Ann Hauser tells
The Parliamentary Review
that Abbotswood has managed
to remain successful, in contrast to other SME housebuilders
in the country. Ann discusses the difficulties facing the UK
housebuilding industry – including legislation, recruitment and
the financing of projects.
Established as a housebuilder in 1983, Abbotswood Properties has weathered the
storms of two recessions, increased red tape and financial difficulties to name a
few. These challenges have caused the demise of 75 per cent of SME housebuilders
from 1988 to date, a staggering two thirds of them going to the wall between
2007 and 2009.
Being led by two multiskilled architects, one with extensive construction
experience, provided a strong start. In the early 1980s, the complex current
legislation at both central and local government level had yet to appear. Banks
were often managed at a local level by pragmatic, benevolent lenders. Surviving
the harsh recession of the early 1990s, gradually a profitable track record
emerged. By anticipating problems and being risk-averse, we developed high levels
of trust with our lenders.
Building our reputation
Maintaining our values of design and quality ahead of profit, and refining our
traditional construction methodology, we gained a reputation for attractive,
easily maintained homes as refuge, every square inch working hard for itsliving.
FACTS ABOUT
ABBOTSWOOD PROPERTIES
»Director: Ann Hauser
»Established in 1983
»Based in Hampshire
»Services: Housebuilding and
property maintenance
»No. of employees: 20
Abbotswood
Properties
47ABBOTSWOOD PROPERTIES |
HOUSING
Muchappreciated by buyers,
house sales continued to deliver
increasedprofits.
By the late 1990s, the company
also had an extensive refurbishment
programme and, in the early 2000s,
Abbotswood began to design purpose-
built student housing in Winchester
and Southampton for its sister
company, Super Uni.
Responding to changes in
legislation
From the 1980s, housebuilding
challenges increased dramatically. New
planning and construction legislation
such as trees and their conservation,
ecology, flooding, highways and
construction management plans were
all now required within an application.
Rather than applying the final veto,
planning officers are now reduced
to co-ordinators of their consultees.
Local plans, including the London
Plan, acknowledge the importance
of developing small sites, yet SME
housebuilders are often not equipped
to manage the huge complexities that
have emerged in the 21st century.
Essential for new homes are ten-year
warranties, which require extensive
and complex information such as site
reports, even for a one-off house.
Simple trench foundations, always
approved on-site by building control,
now need a structural engineer’s
design and calculations.
Many small housebuilders are not able
to cope with these challenges.
Finding a solution to the issue
of recruitment
Traditionally, SME housebuilding
companies often passed from
generation to generation, but the
rigours of the late 20th and early
21st centuries saw family members
unwilling to take over. Knowledge
and experience were lost and not
replaced. Most construction companies
now struggle to find good staff. The
industry is crying out for all-round
construction graduates, but very few
suitable undergraduate courses exist in
the UK which, together with disinterest
from sixth formers in construction,
leads to hardly any choosing
housebuilding as a career.
Apart from sales, women are rarely
seen on site or in housebuilder offices.
A construction qualification covering
most aspects of the building process
could create confident graduates.
Offered as sandwich courses,
experience could be gained on site and
in the main office.
The importance of investing
in people
At Abbotswood, with in-house
training, multiskilled middle managers
play a large part in preventing the
expensive delays seen on so many
developments and usually caused by a
lack of good site planning. We are not
afraid of employing unqualified staff
who can be developed and trained
both within the business and through
day-release courses. In the early 2000s,
Abbotswood gained the excellent
Investors in People award. Many of our
developments are self-
funded
The industry is
crying out for
all-round
construction
graduates, but
very few
suitable
undergraduate
courses exist in
the UK
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
48 | ABBOTSWOOD PROPERTIES
With increased red tape, we realised
the need to develop consultants,
engineers, ecologists, planning
consultants and barristers. All are
directly instructed by, and therefore
answerable to, Abbotswood, creating
efficiencies and economies in design
and construction. Some of our
subcontractors, who are reliable and
highly skilled, have been with us for
over 30 years.
Barriers to lending
Always supported by economical
high street banks, we are beginning
to see barriers to lending. Banks
have a much more short-term view
or are not able to fund development
costs at all during the build process.
Now fairly well placed with retained
profits, Abbotswood often self-fund
developments.
The UK Housebuilder Federation
believes correctly that delivery of
new homes can be increased by the
reappearance of SME housebuilders.
Much lip service is paid to the need
for government to interject with
schemes offering financial support
to housebuilders and purchasers.
This only deals with the symptoms,
rather than fundamental problems.
Decisions should be removed from the
political arena of planning committees.
Transferring the management of
many planning issues, such as climate
change, flooding, drainage, surface
water and construction management,
to building control rather than
planning officers, would assist SMEs.
Changing perception of the
industry
They will not re-emerge as robust
businesses until construction is
considered a positive career option
by school leavers and graduates and
respected by the public. The industry
needs to promote itself as an exciting
career choice. With the introduction
of all-rounder construction courses,
graduates could be sponsored by
contractors. Rather as GPs refer
patients to medical specialists,
these “jack of all trades” graduates
could then manage specialists
withconfidence.
Staffed by competent teams, SME
housebuilders would be better placed
to tackle the planning system, building
control challenges and so on. Lenders,
especially the high street banks, would
have the confidence to support all
scales of housing developments and
SMEs would make a very positive
contribution to the provision of
housing in the UK.
In the meantime, we continue to
survive by diversification. Future
projects will include co-living
microunits supported by co-working
spaces. Plans are being made for a
co-housing project where retirees
can live fulfilling lives supported
by other residents: a reflection on
Abbotswood’s core value of creating
homes as refuge.
Housebuilding
SMEs will not
re-emerge as
robust
businesses until
construction is
considered a
positive career
option by
school leavers
and graduates
Design and quality

This article was sponsored by Abbotswood Properties. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss

Even by the standards of the day –this has been one of the most exciting and unpredictable years in British politics.

The leadership election we’ve just seen marks a huge moment in our country’s history. This government is taking a decisive new direction, embracing the opportunities of Brexit and preparing our country to flourish outside the EU.

As international trade secretary, I’ll be driving forward work on the free trade agreements that are going to be a priority for the government. Free trade isn’t just an abstract concept bandied around by technocrats. It is crucial for a strong economy and for the ability of families to make ends meet. Free trade benefits people in every part of our country, as British firms export to new markets and people doing the weekly shop have access to a wider choice of goods at lower prices.

The essence of free trade is in the title: freedom. It’s about giving people the power to exchange their goods without heavy government taxation or interference. Commerce and free exchange are the engine room of prosperity and social mobility. I’m determined to tackle the forces who want to hold that back.

One of my priorities is agreeing an exciting new free trade deal with the US, building on the great relationship between our two countries and the Prime Minister and US President. But I’ll also be talking to other partners including New Zealand, Australia and fast-growing Asian markets.

And with the EU too, we want a friendly and constructive relationship, as constitutional equals, and as friends and partners in facing the challenges that lie ahead – a relationship based on a deep free trade agreement. Our country produces some of the world’s most successful exports, and the opportunity to bring these to the rest of the world should make us all excited about the future. It is this excitement, optimism and ambition which I believe will come to define this government.

For too long now, we have been told Britain isn’t big or important enough to survive outside the EU – that we have to accept a deal that reflects our reduced circumstances. I say that’s rubbish. With the right policies in place, we can be the most competitive, free-thinking, prosperous nation on Earth exporting to the world and leading in new developments like AI. To do that, we’ll give the brilliant next generation of entrepreneurs the tools they need to succeed. Since 2015, there has been a staggering 85 per cent rise in the number of businesses set up by 18 to 24 year olds – twice the level set up by the same age group in France and Germany. We’ll help them flourish by championing enterprise, cutting taxes and making regulation flexible and responsive to their needs.

As we do that, we’ll level up and unite all parts of the UK with great transport links, fibre broadband in every home and proper school funding, so everyone shares in our country’s success.

2019 has been the year of brewing economic and political revolution. 2020 will be the year when a revitalised Conservative government turbo charges the economy, boosts prospects for people across the country, and catapults Britain back to the forefront of the world stage.



Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss
Secretary of State for International Development