Strathclyde is latest Scots victim of building slump

SCOTLAND'S housebuilding sector was dealt a fresh blow yesterday as it emerged that Strathclyde Homes had fallen into the hands of receivers with the loss of 18 jobs.

At the height of the housing boom the Cumbernauld-based firm had a turnover of 45 million, but fell victim to poor sales and heavy debt as the credit crunch took hold. Its assets are now being sold in an attempt to recover its debts.

In its most recent set of accounts, Strathclyde's auditors KPMG warned that the firm had breached its bank covenants and had fallen behind in payments due to its other creditors as early as 2009. The firm had a net debt of 25.7m, including a 15m overdraft with Royal Bank of Scotland, after recording losses of 18m in 2008.

The 21-year-old firm had 97 employees as of the end of 2008, but when the bank called in the receivers it had 19 staff, with 18 of these being made redundant.

The firm's timber frame subsidiary, Strathclyde Timber Systems, had already been placed into administration in 2009 while a joint venture with Bett Homes, Best Braehead Development Company, was put into administration last year.

The company, which was owned by John O'Neill, has been the title sponsor of Dumbarton Football Club's stadium since 2001. Directors of the club were unavailable for comment last night on whether the name of the Strathclyde Homes Stadium would be changed.

Deloitte, the receiver that was appointed in recent weeks, said the business had "experienced sustained cash-flow problems caused by the downturn in the housing market".

It is understood the firm had been attempting to build out various sites in the 18 months or so with the support of RBS, but sales had proved disappointing.

Deloitte added that Strathclyde had three major developments, in Clydebank, Bathgate and Fauldhouse, with additional landbank sites held in Ayr and Glasgow, which are currently up for sale.

John Reid, partner in the restructuring team at Deloitte, said: "The housing market remains subdued which has unfortunately resulted in Strathclyde Homes being unable to continue trading as a viable business.

"Our priority now is to ensure we realise maximum value from the company's assets".

The firm had also been involved in a 60m housing development at Yoker on the banks of the Clyde, a joint venture with fellow developer Park Lane. Glasgow-based Park Lane is two months late in filing its accounts with Companies House.

Strathclyde Homes is the latest in a line of Scottish housebuilders that have gone into administration, including Elphinstone Estates and Thomas Mitchell Homes last year, while in 2009 luxury flat developer Applecross, Highmore Homes, and developer Gregor Shore also failed.Larger firms such as Bett Homes and Miller Homes have successfully re-negotiated banking facilities and are expecting to take advantage of an uptick in sales as the market comes back.

Jonathan Fair, chief executive of industry body Homes for Scotland, said: "The market is still undeniably tough for home builders but we believe we are beginning to see signs of recovery, albeit from a very low base."