Countryside boss refuses to rule out more regional job cuts

Les Brown, regional director of housebuilder Countryside Properties, refused to rule out further job losses at the firm's Warrington office when the annual results are announced in the autumn.

Brown said: "We are no different to anyone else and sales and construction have slowed right down.

"It is difficult to say [whether there will be cuts] and we will need to see where we are after our financial year at the end of September."

Countryside employs nearly 300 people in Warrington where it has already made around 40 staff redundant this year. The housebuilder, owned jointly by the Cherry family and Halifax Bank of Scotland, scaled back its development pipeline in the spring along with the rest of the industry as the market fell.

However, Brown claimed the company is still in the market for development opportunities for schemes in excess of 150 units in areas of poor supply and strong demand. He said two sites in Manchester were under consideration and plans for the Boot estate in Liverpool were being progressed.

"We are always open to opportunities, and this market is certainly going to present some, whether it be developers with land banked that they don't want or lenders wanting to recoup cash. Now is the time for buyers to scoop up key sites."

Countryside has around a dozen developments across the North West from HQ in St Helens and Lune Mill in Lancaster to Mann Island in Liverpool, recently pre-sold to Dylan Harvey for £70m.

Brown said sales are still being completed and the firm is doing its best to explore mixed tenure products of all kinds and urging its backer, HBOS, to provide mortgages where possible.

In Salford, Countryside recently secured outline permission for phases two, three and five of its 3,500-unit New Broughton regeneration scheme. The planning approval will see the construction of 808 new homes, comprising a range of one, two, three and four bedroom homes. Of these homes, a total of 211 two, three and four bed properties will be available for social rent through Space New Living, part of Great Places Housing Association.

A further application for 40 homes of which 27 will be affordable properties offered for social rent has since been submitted.

Brown added: "We are looking to move forward with Salford as quickly as possible and are in talks with the council over building a new primary school. The stock has sold out so far and we are on course to finish as planned in 2011."

Construction of phases two, three and five is expected to start on site at the beginning of October 2008 with first completions expected in April 2009. Construction is well underway on phase four of the development which will be completed by the end of September 2008 from which work will move swiftly onto phase two.

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