We were in the middle of a pandemic, so what you do is work with everything ... and pick back up where you left off

The Impact On Construction And The Property Market In South West England.

Aaron Phillips talks to Sean Butcher of Acorn Property Group at their site: The Liner, overlooking Gyllyngvase Beach, Falmouth Cornwall – 30th June 2020.

The Effect of The Covid-19 Crisis

What were the effects on construction caused by the lock down?

Fortunately, this site was able to continue working at around 80% of normal capacity throughout lockdown with, of course, strict social distancing measures in place. There were certain things we were not able to do such as plastering or putting the electrics in due to the one way systems created on site, so that has had a slight knock on effect.

What about your supply chain?

That is where we have really looked ahead. We have actually purchased a lot of what we need for here already. All the kitchens and bathroom flooring etc are stored locally off-site so if there is a manufacturing or supply issue, it won’t hold us up. If there were to be a second wave, we have most of the materials we need.

Did you feel the need to sell online and adapt your strategy to fit?

We have a lot of information available online anyway as our buyers come from all over so we are used to talking through plans online or over the phone. We weren't able to accept any viewings during lockdown but this didn't stop us speaking to people.

Are there any fears of a housing market downturn?

There may be concern in more urban areas but not so much in coastal areas especially with the added health benefits associated with being close to the coast and having so much access to the great outdoors. There is also still a short supply of quality homes in the right location which we believe we meet the criteria on at The Liner.

In 2008/9 when the banks collapsed, we had a massive upturn in Cornwall because people stopped buying abroad and looked for options in the UK.

We see the housing market performing very well down here, and it just so happens; the first couple of people we have taken round this week have bought.

How is the company set up in the South West?

As well as an office in London, Acorn has four further regional offices across the South West – Bristol, Cardiff, Exeter and Acorn Blue which is based in Newquay and looks after the Cornwall sites.

Acorn Blue is an experienced team that knows the South West well. We also work with local architects, designers and builders who also know us and how we work very well.

Working in the South West, are you put under any pressure to build holiday homes?

This is a bit of a ‘Yes and No’ answer. All our homes have full residential use and attract a variety of different types of buyers from owner occupiers and retirees to investors and those looking for a holiday home..

Like ‘The Liner’ in Falmouth - they can be used as a main residence, second home, long-term let or even a holiday let - and we always have a good mixture of all of these.

How does that affect the design and planning process?

It does not really affect the process. Once we have talks with the local residents, they understand that the economy here relies massively on tourism and seasonal visitors. Hotels tend to cater for single occupiers and couples whereas ours is largely for families or longer term residents.

Whereas, with apartments there are more family groups booking them and they stay there for longer periods at a time each, usually with just a single car each. Also, the buyers that we are bringing to the area are more likely to spend more money in the local community, at restaurants and in shops.

During to design and planning process We consult with the local councils, planners and community and work to try and identify the local housing need and demand. We then design our schemes in support of that..

Are you hoping that this type of development will attract more restaurants and shops to the area?

Well, Michael Caine has just opened his first restaurant in Cornwall, just up the road which is very exciting! And we hope this is the start of more to come for the residents here. This type of flagship site really does change the area for the better.

What do you think sets Acorn apart from the competition?

Continuity. Acorn has been led by the same people from the start and they ensure they know every single site in detail, but trust their staff in each region to do what they do best.

We were all pretty much hand-picked. I’ve been here for 10 years and I’m a baby compared to others. Some have been here 20 plus years. We are very well organised, and everyone knows what they are doing and it just gels really well because there is trust within the Company.

While each region works fairly independently, supported by head office, we pride ourselves on having our own experienced imaginative management, design, construction and sales teams.

About the Site

Are there retail plans for the commercial units on site?

The commercial units have been sold to a small, well-known food store which will be convenient for the residents. There will not be any parking spaces for shoppers on site so it will be for light shopping only.

Did you manage to allow for every apartment to have a parking space?

Yes, every apartment has a space but the penthouses and each top level apartment have two each. One buyer has purchased two apartments on a lower level which we have combined into one for them and therefore they will have 2 parking spaces.

Acorn are fortunate because the size of their business means they are not forced into projects that they do not wish to pursue and can choose the very best sites.

Am I correct in saying that you have sold 30% of this site?

Yes over 30%. We have sold 17 apartments off-plan so far.

Find out more about investing in The Acorn Property Group, call us on 01273 447299 or register on the website to access full investment details.

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