Swindon & Wiltshire Business News

Builder warns of tough few months as it works to overcome shortages

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Sam Smart

 

A construction group is warning of tough few months as it works to overcome shortages that are affecting the whole construction industry.

Delays in deliveries of building materials including timber and bricks of up to 16 weeks mean staff at Stonewood Group's contracting arm Stonewood Builders of Castle Combe and housing developer Stonewood Partnerships of Tormarton are working flat out to minimise the effect on its projects.

Stonewood Partnerships commercial director Adam Marks said the issue is affecting the whole of the industry but the group is reorganising the way it works to plan further ahead.

"Communication with the supply chain is the most important thing and we have strengthened our commercial team to allow us to do that,” he said.

“We are working with suppliers to get notice of when there are going to be longer lead times than normal, as well as early notification of when stocks are available.”

He said Stonewood Partnerships, which has developments at Somerbrook in Great Somerford, The Tannery in Holt, The Courtyard in Calne in Wiltshire and Orchard View at Siddington in Gloucestershire, is ordering some materials months in advance.

“Usually, we would place the order for all the internal doors on a development right at the start with one supplier and the site would just ring the supplier a few weeks before they need them."

“But now we are doing that 12 to 16 weeks in advance so there is a lot more back-office support needed.”

He said by working with suppliers to order ahead Stonewood is reducing the effect of shortages in timber, bricks, blocks and stone.

“The reality is there are going to be delays to our building programme for the time being, it is just a case of doing everything we can to minimise them,” he said.

Industry experts say the delays are due to a combination of factors – a shortage of HGV drivers post-Brexit and because of the ‘pingdemic’, manufacturers still returning to full production after the pandemic and a worldwide shortage of shipping containers after China recalled millions of them because of Covid.

“We are hearing from the market that the problems should ease by the end of the year, or early next, but we have got a challenging three to four months ahead of us. I’ve never known anything like it from a materials and labour perspective,” said Adam.

The shortages and rising shipping costs have also led to price rises, with suppliers unable to guarantee prices for more than a few months. 

“Prices are secondary as although we will obviously always strive for the best commercial value in our build, prices are fluctuating and we have to pay what we have to pay and there’s not a huge amount we can do about that,” said Adam.

The Office for National Statistics has projected a rise of seven to eight percent in material prices, with increases for certain materials, such as timber, expected to more than double during the course of the year.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders said: “A recent FMB survey found that 93 percent of builders reported material price increases in quarter one of 2021, which is an untenable situation.”

Stonewood said it is in regular contact with customers who have reserved homes to let them know of any completion delays so they can plan their moving day with confidence.

Managing director Sam Smart (pictured) said: “We realise that moving home can be very stressful at the best of times and although these shortages are completely out of our control, we are doing absolutely everything in our power to find alternatives supplies, even if we have to use higher spec materials so that we minimise the impact as much as possible for our customers.

“We want to make sure they are kept up to date as far as we possibly can so they are clear what is happening.”