Steve Morgan Redrow

Morgan: NIMBYs still alive and kicking

Charlie Schouten

Steve Morgan, outgoing executive chairman of Redrow and founder of the Deeside-based housebuilder, spoke to Place North West to reflect on the Government’s “totally wrong” Help to Buy caps, battles with NIMBYism, and his achievements in more than 40 years at the business.

Morgan announced his retirement on Wednesday from the company he founded in 1974, and will step down in March next year to hand the reins to incumbent chief executive officer John Tutte,  who will take up the role of executive chairman. Matthew Pratt, who is currently regional chief executive of Redrow’s southern business, will become chief executive officer.

But Morgan will still take an active role in the sector, starting with lobbying the Government to rethink caps on its recently-announced Help to Buy extension, outlined by the Chancellor in last week’s Budget, which he said “got it wrong in the extreme”.

The Help to Buy system will be replaced with a new version, starting in 2021 and running to 2023. However, anyone looking to purchase a house in the North West can only use Help to Buy on a price of up to £224,400. This compares with prices of £437,600 in the South East, and £349,000 in the South West.

Calling on the housing sector to “lobby hard” to change the Government’s view, Morgan said: “How is it fair that the cap should be £224,000 in the North West and much higher in the South East, when someone in a more affluent area of the North West – say Sale or Altrincham – will be paying more for a house than someone in Kent, for example?

“It’s wrong in the extreme and it’s letting first-time buyers down. If the Government says it wants to support the so-called Northern Powerhouse then it needs to lift that cap.”

Morgan also said the group would continue to look across different boroughs to develop housing schemes, although some local authorities “just don’t take the responsibility to get houses built seriously”.

“Our product naturally lends itself towards leafier neighbourhoods because it’s a more premium offering but we are happy to work anywhere in the North West.

“The disadvantage of that is in some areas the NIMBYs are alive and kicking, but it’s our job to deal with it.”

A number of Redrow developments in the North West have been subject to public objection, not least at Calderstones Park in Liverpool, and also in Macclesfield, where the local parish council is exploring a judicial review into a consent for the housebuilder in Henbury.

However, Morgan said it will “take a long time to change perceptions” about housebuilders with people being noisier about objecting to developments than supporting them, but added: “It’s not acceptable to say ‘we don’t need to build more homes’ any more. We’ve completely failed as a country to build enough and we all know it.”

Criticism of housebuilders has come to head this week with Persimmon chief executive Jeff Fairburn leaving the company following controversy over his £75m bonus.

While Morgan said the bonus was “completely obscene”, he said the incident had “tainted all housebuilders”.

“Housebuilders have got a bad rap particularly from the media with some people tarring us all with the same brush,” he said.

“I would prefer to respond with some facts: since we were founded we have delivered £2.7bn of community infrastructure – roads, schools, health centres – 2,300 hectares of public open space, 36,000 direct jobs, a further 200,000 indirect employees, and trained 2,000 youngsters. We don’t get the headlines for that, and I’m very proud of it: I can step down with my head held high.”

Morgan made £152m last September from the sale of 25.9m Redrow shares, held by his company Bridgemere Group and his charity The Steve Morgan Foundation. The proceeds of the sell-off to institutional investors, at 590p a share, was split between the two companies; Bridgemere still controls around 25% of Redrow.

Morgan’s retirement in March will be 10 years almost to the day since he returned to the company in 2009, after initially leaving in 2000.

“The business was in a hell of a mess in 2009 and it seems like the stars have aligned that I can retire on the 10th anniversary of coming back,” he said.

“You have to think ‘when is it the right time?’ and if there is one, it feels like now. We recently had our 100,000th completion, which is a proud moment for me personally; there are 300,000 people living in a Redrow home, that’s more than the amount of people who live in the city of Newcastle.

“I’m leaving the company in fantastic shape, we have £132m cash at the bank after record results, and I’m leaving behind a bloody great team. John [Tutte] is brilliant and Matthew [Pratt] is stepping up to chief operating officer – there’s little he doesn’t know. It’ll be more of the same from Redrow, but with a different captain of the ship.”

He will be leaving the company with a turnover of £1.92bn and an operating profit of £382m as of its 2018 results – its strongest results in its near 45-year history.

Morgan added he would look to devote his time to his charity, the Steve Morgan Foundation, once he retires next year. Since its foundation in 2001, the charity has committed £35m to causes in North Wales, Merseyside, and Cheshire.

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The help to buy cap is good, because it limits the amount that can be charged for housing. Unlimited profits for developers isn’t in our interests.

As for his “product” lending itself to leafier locations, they’re not leafier locations once developers are through with them.

If it’s such a premium product which people shouldn’t get all NIMBY over, then why not let it speak for itself and use it to reestablish desirable living locations where there is land that needs redeveloping, like Bootle or Toxteth.

With lower land values that would even allow for a higher quality finish.

If the answer is to build on Calderstones, rather than take over a swathe of derelict Everton, do we conclude profit is being derived from a premium area, as opposed to a premium product?

I don’t believe there is any obligation on our city to ensure private companies get to profit from our city’s intrinsic value, and certainly not at cost to ourselves.

By Mike

Perhaps if Redrow developed more properties on brownfield sites rather than extracting intrinsic value from local communities by building on easy-to-develop parks and green-land, then we would see less of this ‘NIMBY-ism’, which you crudely refer to.

By Anonymous

Some people are proud to be called NIMBY’s, it shows that we care about our environment because it isn’t only our backyard, it’s everyone’s backyard.

As long as housebuilders make huge profits, yet still want the government to pay to remediate brownfield sites, the public isn’t going to change its perceptions.

By Devils advocate

I wonder how many people now sitting pretty in Allerton, Calderstones and near Sefton Park watching their houses they bought for a pittance increase in year on year would be happy to move to a former brownfield inner urban site? Or is it just everyone who isn’t already in clover in the suburbs who has to do that? I guess all the suburban development on greenfield land was fine right up until the point you moved there? Forgetting as well of course that Sefton Park was effectively originally a private housing development with the park as a selling point….most of these suburbs were built by Redrows forebears.

Let’s be truly radical, demolish all suburbs from 1930s onwards, return it to green land and move the residents to old industrial sites near the docks. Didnt think so….

At least be honest, you’re protecting your own interests, that of the propertied suburban middle-upper class. That’s fine, but don’t pretend it’s anything to do with the wider community. Politicians fear you in a way sadly they don’t the truly poor and disenfranchised.

But as year on year less and less people can access the dwindling number of nice houses in nice areas you may find your political clout reduced.

By SP

Rather like to get their own way, everything as easy as possible to maximise profits. A brownfield first policy should be mandatory with the developer picking up the tab for it. As for the NIMBY comments ‘our job to deal with it’ it is a good job people are prepared to stand up and be counted otherwise the whole country would be concreted over. As for ‘completely obscene’ bonus – maybe he would like to build some starter homes, a homeless shelter, care home, refuge for victims of abuse – to give back to communities, payback for the destroyed leafier areas, the less financially well off who can’t get onto the property ladder at all as there is very little ‘affordable housing’ – though not. He should remember there are no pockets in shrouds and where we all end up is the same for all. Humility, humanity and empathy all seem to be missing from Morgan’s skill set.

By Dori

I can’t think of an industry that’s more demonised, its crazy. He’s retiring to concentrate on his charitable causes, which has already donated astronomical amounts, and he still get’s abuse!
‘Developers’ are largely owned by shareholdlers – which can be anyone, you, me, anyone! The profits they make increase the share price, just like any other Plc. Next AGM – “Sorry the share price has tanked everyone, we ‘picked up the tab’ to develop out unviable brownfield sites at a loss, does anyone want to buy anymore shares though? Because we don’t have any money left to build any more houses”.

Housebuilders are just companies, same as all the others. If they don’t make money they stop being companies! Enjoy retirement Steve.

By Same Old Housebuilder Bashing

I feel that the majority of Planning Committee Members and indeed Planning Officers adopt a NIMBY approach. ‘Is there any grounds on which we can refuse this?’ Rather than ‘Is there any reason why we cannot approve?’. The result is the mess we now have, planning by appeal, 5 year land supply a key factor, meaning often poor high density greenfield sites are built on, as no help or support is given to the vast majority of proposals. I agree with Mr Morgan.

By Flash Harry

It is now abundantly clear that we must separate planning from politics as soon as humanly possible. Local members, MPs and mayors have to adopt a NIMBY view if they are to win elections. It is a fact that NIMBYism has landed the country in a massive housing crisis and is increasingly depriving young people from the opportunity of home ownership that these NIMBYs have enjoyed thier whole lives. Proper planning, in the wider interest of all residents (rather that just those that already own homes), can only be done if it is divorced from pretty day-to-day NIMBYism and politicing, where the haves lord it over the have nots.

By Anonymous

I yearn for the day in this country when volume house building doesn’t equate to acres and acres of pastiche detritus.

By TBC

Redrow talk about housebuilding when they have one of the biggest land banks in the Uk. They are not interested in affordable housing on brownfield sites. They couldnt give a sh….t about the environment….they are quite happy to build on green wedge, green belt, parkland etc etc.

By Josie Mullen

‘Ah,how do you sleep at night’

By Gareth

What self-serving nonsense.
Calderstones is a public park and has been for over a century.
You want 13 acres for 39 luxury houses in an area full of large properties often lived in by one person.
They are unneeded and reduce open space in a city with the least open space of all the major cities.

By Eric Smith

The reason for objecting to housing development on a public park is obvious, increasing density of population makes the preservation of green space vital for the health and mental welfare of future generations. If that makes me a NIMBY I plead guilty!

By Keep Calderstones green

‘NIMBYS’ Cheeky sod!!! I bet he doesn’t have anyone building in his enormous back garden. I live in a terraced house with a back yard. I live 2 miles from Calderstones park, it’s not IMBY. It’s precious for me, for others like me, for the environment and for wildlife. How dare he threaten it to line his fat cat pockets. This isn’t about social housing it’s about housing for the rich.

By Annette

People do need homes: affordable ones. Not executive properties for the 1%, and definitely not on parks. How will you advertise your builds as ‘leafy’ when all the trees have gone?

People need trees to live. All people. Including your execs who are living in the Redrow properties that weren’t protested (because they weren’t built on parks). Of course plans like Harthill/Calderstones will be opposed. Wouldn’t you be a NIMBY if your own garden was threatened?

Have a heart. Realise Calderstones isn’t the place for development, and find somewhere else to build. There’s enough dereliction surrounding Princes Park and Smithdown Road. There’s plenty of greenery near there too. Try rejuvenating those areas instead.

By Chantal

If the definition of nimby is to challenge corrupt and greedy actions then I’ll be a nimby then!

By Alison Leigh

The proposed developments near Calderstones Park and Sefton Park were NOT IN THE PARK. You can twist things all you like but fields near a park are not a park.

Why build ‘posh’ houses? Because the City Council needs Council Tax to pay for services, especially now central Government support and EU support for Merseyside is ending. There a lot more people in need in the city than higher rate taxpayers. Bigger houses mean more tax to pay for services for those in need (including paying for the parks!!!). More people to tax, more money for services. Lots of ‘posh’ people who work in Liverpool live outside the city boundary, so don’t pay tax into the city. More of them living in the city means more money for the city!! TBH Council tax in general needs total reform so those owning bigger houses pay more, but for now we have what we have. Liverpool has parks built for a population of 1 million all paying tax, it now has a population of less than half a million, many of whom can’t pay tax. Taxing big houses is a good way to pay for parks!

As for the ‘least green space city’, not really true if you look at the research in detail. Only in the city centre and because Liverpool is not surrounded by moors etc like Mcr or Sheffield. South Liverpool, where all these developments were planned, has more trees per hectare than any other city in the UK. But once again loud rhetoric and hearsay overwhelms facts.

Also there are lots of affordable/social housing schemes in the city, there would be more if the central Government gave financial support, so don’t pretend it’s either/or.

By SP

The park is of most benefit to the many people around the area who live in terraces with no garden at all. How will building a few posh houses on it help them?
I am one of these people, living in a rented house with no garden. If this makes me a NIMBY, so be it.
There is a lot of brownfield land in Liverpool, much of it within a couple of miles this site, and also within 2 miles of the jobs in the city at the hospitals and university. Surely a genuine ‘premium offering’ would be desirable in these areas as well, or does it rely on the park to make a poor quality and overpriced house look desirable?

By James

Agree entirely with Mike’s comments. Redrow another housebuilder who have milked the housing market, aided and abetted by Help to Buy and in city’s like Liverpool, a weak and compliant Council.

By John Smith

There is obviously a lot of jealously against anyone living in the suburbs. Wanting to protect a park is not a crime. What is criminal is wanting to destroy it. There is no need whatsoever to build on a park. Build anywhere else in any area but not on a park! There are plenty of brownfield sites in Liverpool. Why does Steve Morgan not want to build on these sites? Why does he not want to build affordable homes for people who are trying to get on the property ladder? Why is Steve Morgan only set on building in affluent areas? Are brownfield sites not good enough for his company to build houses on? Who does he think he is? I know exactly what he is…. he is a snob! If he doesn’t rate the area then he doesn’t build there. For him to class those who care about green spaces as NIMBYs is just plain pathetic. Would he let anyone build in his back yard? I’m sure it would be a big fat NO! I’m sure he is actually the biggest NIMBY of all.

By NIMBY & Proud of it!

Steve, it must be very irritating for you find that your proposed build on our Calderstones Park in Liverpool has met with such rigorous opposition but get used to it because we have only just started. Are we protective of what we have? Well I suppose we are because we have all worked hard enough to be able to live here. I live in a two bedroomed property within walking distance of the park but was brought up in Speke. My next door neighbours hail from The Dingle and from the Scotland Rd area of the City Centre. None of us are posh we just kept slogging on through our working lives until we were able to afford to live a reasonably comfortable life in a place that we like. You came from Garston but to say that you have also managed to do well for yourself is somewhat of an under statement. Whilst I don’t hold that against you please don’t insult us by implying that we don’t have a right to live where we do. Calderstones Park is used by residents from all over Liverpool in fact there are more families using it than ever before so ALL of the parkland is needed and should be kept in perpetuity for ALL of Liverpool’s people.

By Lou

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