Key players in development

Renewed retailer confidence is fuelling growth in non-residential development while the housebuilders are reporting healthy forward order books for 2016, says Josephine Smit.

Berkeley Homes apartments development
Berkeley Homes apartments development

Not so long ago forecasters were predicting the death of the high street, the supermarket and almost every other manifestation of retailing that did not involve click-and-pay. Now such reports look to have been slightly premature. Several factors are prompting a retail revival, notably the rise of the discount retailer and a shift in shopping patterns away from the "weekly big shop" towards a "little-and-often" approach engendered by austerity and convenience. The shift is benefitting bricks-and-mortar stores both in city centres and out of town parks.

Renewed retailer confidence is being expressed in the growth in store developments in the pipeline, with discount retailers, perhaps unsurprisingly, leading the charge. In mid 2015 Aldi pledged to almost double its store numbers from 560 to 1,000 within eight years and looks on course to deliver. Established players in this highly competitive market also have expansion plans, with the Co-Op set to open 120 stores over 2016.

Alongside the retailers, the public sector features prominently in our listing, with the Department for Education topping the table. Looking ahead, however, the picture changes as the number of projects in the pipeline is less than a third of the quantity currently in progress. Last November’s Government spending review and autumn statement may have highlighted £23bn for schools, but the new austerity academies and free schools have far less generous budgets for buildings and landscaping than the Labour government’s Building Schools for the Future initiative.

The housebuilders

It is difficult to compare the output of developers of schools, offices, shops and retail with the very different activity of housebuilding. As a result, our main listing excludes housebuilders and the future activity of that sector’s key players is outlined in a series of more detailed company tables.

Our tables chart the current projects and future pipeline of the UK’s three biggest housebuilders — Barratt, Persimmon and Taylor Wimpey — giving a picture of future activity across the regions. All show a decrease in projects looking ahead, particularly in more northerly regions, but that is not necessarily cause for alarm yet.

Market demand is a key influence on the pace of build and major companies are reporting reasonably healthy forward order books for 2016. For example, Persimmon reported in November that its forward sales of homes beyond 2015 totalled £780m, up by 12 per cent on the preceding year. The company opened regional offices in Durham and central Birmingham in 2015 and plans to follow that with further openings in Cornwall and Perth in 2016.

Alongside housebuilding’s biggest national names, this report puts the spotlight on two companies, both known for the quality of landscaping and public realm of their schemes. Berkeley Group and Crest Nicholson largely target the premium homebuyer in the south of England — a market that appreciates and is willing to pay a premium for quality homes and neighbourhoods. Both contributed to the Landscape Institute’s Profitable Places guidance and boast notable sustainability credentials.

Through 2016 Berkeley Group — which also includes the St George, St James, St Edward and St William brands — will continue to develop ongoing major schemes such as the £1bn Kidbrooke Village in the London Borough of Greenwich. This regeneration project includes more than 4,000 homes and 11ha of new metropolitan land, and will take 20 years to deliver. New projects in the pipeline for the year ahead include Chiswick Gate to the west of the capital.

Crest Nicholson also has significant forward sales for 2016 — of more than 1,600 homes, worth almost £329m, according to a trading update last October — and a new Chiltern division has already secured five sites. This year will see the continuation of key schemes including Swindon’s Tadpole Garden Village and Bath Western Riverside.

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