Redrow founder: 'Cut red tape to combat housing crisis'

By Sarah Dickins
BBC Wales economics correspondent

Steve Morgan
Image caption,
Steve Morgan is stepping away from his company for the second time

The best way to combat the housing crisis is to speed up planning permissions and build more homes, according to the founder of Redrow, Wales' biggest housebuilder.

Steve Morgan, 66, is this month leaving the £2bn company for a second time, having returned in 2009 to revive its fortunes after nearly a decade away.

Now he is frustrated that the business of building homes has become too slow.

The Welsh Government said it makes "no apology" for safeguarding measures.

Mr Morgan said a present day "Steve Morgan" could not create a business and build houses as he had.

"I think the obstacles in the way of [small and medium-sized businesses] is probably the biggest single barrier and that's down to planning.

Rules and directives

He started Redrow in 1974 in the spare bedroom of a house in Rhyl with a £5,000 loan from his father, and its first line of work was digging sewers for Wrexham council.

It built its first home in 1979.

At this time, he said, it would take about six weeks from buying land to getting planning permission, and within six months they could open a show home and start selling.

In contrast, it can now take a year from buying land to selling homes, he said, meaning millions of pounds are tied up for 12 months, which realistically makes it impossible for new start-ups to enter the market.

Mr Morgan argued that rules and directives have choked the system, meaning fewer houses are being built, which in turn makes it difficult for first-time buyers to get on the housing ladder.

Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru spokesman Matthew Kennedy agreed the planning process was too slow and said this was not down to excessive regulation, but because there are fewer council officials to complete the paperwork following eight years' of funding cuts.

He agreed the housing crisis was about a lack of supply - but particularly about the supply of affordable homes to buy and rent.

The Welsh Government estimates on average that between 6,700 and 9,700 additional homes will be needed every year in Wales between 2018/19 and 2022/23. More than 11,000 households became homeless in 2017.

A spokesperson said it aims to have a "robust planning system" that protects the environment and people's lives.

But they added that the Welsh Government also encourages small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) builders through funds and apprenticeship projects.

"Planning Policy Wales now requires local planning authorities to keep lists of small sites and encourages them to make provision for SMEs on larger sites as well," the spokesperson said.

"We are working hard to remove the barriers facing small home-building firms."

Image source, Sam Bagnall/AMA/Getty Images
Image caption,
Steve Morgan was the owner of Wolverhampton Wanderers for nine years until 2016
  • Born in November 1952 in Liverpool, and "went to nine different schools and lived in nine different houses", moving to north Wales as a teenager.
  • Educated at Colwyn High School and Liverpool Polytechnic
  • Founded Redrow in 1974 as a small civil engineering contractor
  • Developed the company and led its flotation in 1994
  • Received an OBE in 1992 for services to construction
  • Stepped down as chairman in 2000 but returned in 2009
  • Owner and chairman of Wolverhampton Wanderers FC from 2007 until 2016
  • Chairman of the Bridgemere Group, which is the largest shareholder in Redrow Plc and works in property development and financing.
Image source, Redrow
Image caption,
Redrow's first showhome in the mid 1980s
Image source, Redrow
Image caption,
Working from home - the first Redrow "office" in a bedroom in Rhyl
Image source, Redrow
Image caption,
Steve Morgan's mother helping out in the sales force in 1984
Image source, Redrow
Image caption,
Early brochures and work on an Asda development in Kinmel Bay

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