Pete Bell: Building foundations, facing challenges - celebrating 35 years of Campion Homes

Pete Bell: Building foundations, facing challenges - celebrating 35 years of Campion Homes

Pete Bell

Pete Bell, chairman and co-founder of Campion Homes, marks the housebuilder’s 35th year in business with a look back at its inception and evolution.

This year sees Campion Homes celebrate 35 years of building not just homes, but communities. Back in 1989, we started, rather modestly, as a team of three working from one room. Despite starting small, we had big aspirations. Our first project was designing and building six retirement flats in Lundin Links in Fife, laying the foundations for what would be a hugely enjoyable and challenging journey. Co-founder George Cruikshank and I quite literally laid the foundations ourselves – with some added help from our strapping teenage sons.

Over the years, we’ve faced numerous challenges, including the recessions of the early 1990s and the financial crisis of 2008. These periods tested our resilience but also taught us the value of adaptability and prudent financial management.

A major breakthrough for us came when we established a partnership with Kingdom Housing Association, a collaboration which not only provided financial stability during our early years, but also aligned with our mission to deliver affordable homes.

As time passed and the business grew, the challenges evolved. The impact of a global pandemic and the ongoing issues of hyperinflation within the construction sector have presented new hurdles. Our strong balance sheet and measured approach to growth helped us weather these storms, teaching us that maintaining sound financial health is as crucial as operational success.

Looking towards the future, the industry continues to change at an unprecedented pace. The current planning system is one of the biggest issues facing housebuilding, with complex and lengthy approval processes, as well as community opposition and stringent environmental regulations, making site starts incredibly difficult. Sadly, the days where we could achieve planning permissions and have spades in the ground within six months are long gone.

Working across both affordable and private housing, we’ve always taken a proactive approach to early engagement with communities and local authorities, fostering goodwill and addressing concerns. However, planning delays, and a severe lack of staff in local planning departments, have created significant backlogs. Only by streamlining the process can we get new projects off the ground faster. With the Scottish Government declaring a country-wide housing emergency just last week, surely now is the time for action?

The drive towards sustainability and net zero also presents both a challenge and an opportunity. At Campion, we’ve embraced innovation and we’re committed to ensuring our projects not only meet but exceed current environmental standards.

The shortage of skilled labour remains a persistent issue. To address this, we must ramp up our efforts to attract new talent into the sector. Since starting our apprenticeship programme, we’ve provided 50 apprenticeships across all areas of the business. This approach secures our future workforce and supports community development by providing valuable skills and stable employment.

Community engagement and building long-term relationships have been pillars of our success and as we look back, we also look forward. The relationships we’ve built have been pivotal. Being a community partner and committed employer has enriched our journey, with a number of our people staying with us for over 20 years.

As we celebrate this anniversary, I reflect on the journey that Campion Homes has undertaken. From humble beginnings to a leader in the housing sector, with 3,400 homes created or under construction our path has been filled with challenges, but more importantly, achievements and success. We look forward to playing our part to drive the industry and economy forward, delivering high quality affordable and private housing for Scotland.

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