Government targets they tend to focus on the big stuff.”

He continued: “If you can get a site with over 1000 units on it through, it’s much easier to reach the targets, leaving behind hundreds of small micro develop- ments.” As “small fry” in the grand scheme of things, Nic revealed that “you can’t talk to planners any more – the only contact you can have is via email.” He continued: “Before, you used to be able to walk into a planning office and see a duty officer, discuss things, or you’d make an appointment to see the planning officer in charge of your case; now you can’t even ring them.”

The current process of requesting an appointment by email can reportedly take around 10 days to get a response, and then a month or two before you get to speak to anyone – even on the phone. He puts this in part down to the 2008 financial crash, when “they basically got rid of all the planning officers” as a cost- cutting measure, on the pretext that there were a lot fewer plans going through. “But obviously in the last five years,” he added, “things have picked up, and they just haven’t got enough people to cope with it all – and it’s hard to replace them, because they’ve all gone to private consultancy work or gone abroad, you’ve lost them.”

Acquiring land was the other key issue, as an SME, he said. With the much-cited shortage of smaller sites, it is often difficult to find places to build on this smaller scale.

According to Nic, this is partly because volume developers are purchasing large swathes of land by doing deals with landowners (e.g. local authorities or TFL), “paying peanuts for the site in return for a couple of roundabouts, a few roads or some traffic lights.” “They’ve got big sticks,” he asserted. “They can beat them!”


Despite such barriers, NLondon has succeeded in bringing the development to completion, offering a select few in Enfield a new way of living, and providing a benchmark of what can be achieved in SME eco-design. Of course, however, all of this comes at

a price – around £800,000 – though this is not far off the benchmark considering its London suburb location plus great trans- port links, as well as its size, the luxury amenities, and its energy saving system. The latter represent the ideal way ahead for all new build homes in the future and must surely play a role if Britain is to achieve Net Zero for carbon emissions, but Nic explained why he thinks it’s a long way off before volume

builders adopt such technology: “If they had to add ten thousand pounds to every unit, it makes a big difference to them, and they’re not going to do it – that would cut their profit margins, so they won’t do it unless the Government says they have to.” “We’re slightly different,” he asserts.

“We know that if we spend the money, we can get it back in the price.” Despite the firm’s strong positioning, London’s less than ideal market currently has however posed challenges: “At the end of the day, we want to sell but the market is very difficult at the moment – we’ve rented three of them already, but we are keeping the two corner ones up for sale. “We’ll wait for a few years, see what happens, and put them back on the market – and you never know, one of the tenants might want to buy it in the future.”

This kind of flexibility, along with the firm’s end-user focused ethos, has obviously served it well – winning NLondon a clutch of awards over the years, from LABC and RSA accolades to Green Business of the Year. This has not led Nic to sit on his laurels however; he is actively trying to improve things in the industry, having sat on the panel for the Home Builder’s Group, working within the FMB, and being repeatedly involved in lobbying government.

Whatever can be expected of the Government’s future policy for incentivising eco-homes and leveraging planning for smaller sites – if Nic has any influence on the direction of travel, housebuilding could be in for a greener future. g


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