This has been an unusual year for a vast percentage of the global population, including us.
We headed into the year finishing construction on our apartment scheme in Brockenhurst, completing on our housing site in the same town and awaiting a decision for our apartment scheme on the cliff top in Highcliffe. The plan was to have the finished apartments all sold by summer, the Highcliffe flats under construction by March and the houses finished by January 2021. This was also to be our first year using our own in-house construction team instead of relying on third party contractors.
And then Coronavirus happened.
Thankfully, and most importantly, nobody in our company has personally been a victim of the virus. But we were effected quite dramatically in other ways.
The housing market in Brockenhurst completely shut down for most of the year which obviously prolonged, or rather delayed, our apartment sales period.
At the same time, the local council shut their offices and their work rate went to between zero and a little above zero for a very prolonged period. This meant the planning applications we had running got delayed by a considerable portion of the year. The result of which has effectively delayed construction of the houses in Brockenhurst by around seven months and the apartments in Highcliffe by around ten months.
There were other issues such as contracts which had to be signed by companies who’s offices had shut, suppliers who couldn’t delivery us raw materials either on time or at all due to numerous complications at the border and companies we were in business with who went bankrupt. I appreciate it is quite selfish of me to complain about that final point…
So right up until about three quarters of the way through the year, it felt less like a continuation of our progress and more like swimming flat out to tread water.
But as they say in football (or so I’m told), it has been a year of two halves. Or maybe a year of three quarters and one quarter, I’m not sure. Anyway, however you call it, we have finished the year in a position I am enormously grateful for.
As soon as lockdown measures were relaxed and viewings were allowed we enjoyed high demand on our finished apartments with all bar one selling very quickly and the final apartment expected to go very soon.
Planning approval was granted for our Brockenhurst houses and cliff top apartments with work already progressing faster than expected on the houses due to our construction team performing even better than expected.
The delay period had been spent productively on areas such as refining the quality of our designs and finishes. The result is the properties currently under construction are quite simply extraordinary. I am counting the days until I can show our customers around their new homes and see their reactions.
Aside from this we have secured several very exciting new development sites in the past couple of months, each of which are in prime locations and two of which are already at an advanced planning stage. The increasing scale of each development site ensures that our short term growth is in-line with our targeted pattern. However, due to the quality of the sites that we have secured in such a short period, we have brought forwards our next strategic growth phase by around a year, something I find enormously exciting.
Overall, it’s been a real roller coaster of a year. Thankfully our perhaps conservative approach to risk compared to some rivals has protected us enough that we are around to enjoy the high flying finish. After building our first house just 6 years ago we now have land for over 100 premium homes to build and sell in the next couple of years, which is great, but what I am much more excited about is the way our team is growing and improving together. For us, statistics will always take a back seat behind reputation, customer service and enjoying what we do.
Sadly at the moment there are a number of companies who are not in such a fortunate position and I truly wish them and each of their team members the best of luck over this winter. It is horrible to become unstuck in business or employment and unfortunately this year a large number of people will be subject to the experience, a great deal of whom will have done absolutely nothing to deserve it. I am hopeful that 2021 will be more forgiving, but it could just as easily be much more severe.