Cala bemoans planning issues despite record results

A Cala Homes development. Picture: Scotsman.
A Cala Homes development. Picture: Scotsman.
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Housebuilder Cala Homes has reported its fifth consecutive year of record revenues and profits, but claimed its growth would have been greater without “entirely avoidable” hurdles cause by local authority planning logjams.

The Edinburgh-based company posted a 27 per cent year-on-year jump in revenues to reach £747.9 million in the 12 months to 30 June, while pre-tax profit was up by 14 per cent to £68.5m.

Chief executive Alan Brown told The Scotsman that Cala was the UK’s fastest-growing major homebuilder over the past decade, with volumes up 67 per cent in that time, and “significantly ahead of major listed peers”.

Additionally, total home completions were up 46 per cent to nearly 1,700 in the year, and the average selling price fell to £497,000 from £538,000 following the group’s decision to cut its exposure to homes valued above £1m. Brown said: “We’re still on course to hit our revenue target of about £1 billion a year by 2020, so the business is in really good shape.”

He also hit out at town hall planning delays, claiming that they represented a major challenge for the business.

“We are still encountering unnecessary delays in the planning system owing to both understaffed local planning departments and a sizable disconnect between national housing policy and local government activity,” Brown said.

He added that UK local authorities “continue to cause unnecessary delays to the planning process” despite a shortage of housing.

“While we have grown significantly during the [year] and remain on course to achieve our growth ambitions, our output would have been considerably higher had we not encountered some entirely avoidable issues stemming from these delays.”

Brown said staffing of planning departments needed to be addressed, but said the problem was much more acute in England than north of the Border.

“I think Scotland has historically always been a country that understands the need for housing and the effect positive housing policy has on the economy, although that is changing a little bit at the moment.

“We are seeing more political involvement in Scotland than we’ve ever had before so that’s something that we’re slightly concerned about.”

Plans for a 135-home Cala housing development on greenspace at Bishopbriggs were recently rejected by councillors.

As for the Scottish housing market overall, Brown said this is currently robust across Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen. The Granite City stabilised during the period “to the extent that we’re now reinvesting in sites in Aberdeen”.

It was also recently reported that Cala could provide an economic boost of more than £300m to the Midlothian area, when considering five of its current and planned developments in the region.