Year in Review: Karl Hick – Swimming against the tide

This story is over

Although Larkfleet Group of Companies are active in a number of market sectors the two which currently dominate the business are housebuilding and renewable energy.

In both of these sectors it was government and politics, rather than the market, which had most impact on our activities in 2016.

In the housing sector the uncertainties around Brexit affected us, and all other housebuilders, in terms of our planning for the future. Happily, our worst fears were not realised and consumers – house-buyers in particular – shrugged off any concerns related to our departure from the EU.

The housing market remained strong in the second half of the year and we ended 2016 with a record figure for house sales.

However, there are still some fundamental – primarily ‘political’ – issues affecting our ability to deliver the new homes that are desperately needed by many of the communities we serve across Lincolnshire and beyond.

One of these is the planning system. There are still many obstacles to bringing new homes to market, which the government could address through changes to planning law.

We actually took the government to court during 2016 over some aspects of planning legislation. Although we unfortunately lost our case we were successful in forcing some of these issues ‘onto the agenda’ as far as ministers are concerned.

In the renewable energy market we also took government to court over the way it ‘changed the rules’ regarding payment for solar energy with little notice and no clear strategy. Here, too, we lost our case – but again forced debate on the issue in Whitehall and Westminster.

So in both housing and renewables we were to some extent ‘swimming against the tide’ through 2016. Yet we finished the year strongly in both sectors.

In housing, Larkfleet is currently building homes on more sites than we have ever had active before. We also won two ‘house builder of the year’ awards and were short-listed for a third.

In the renewables sector, our Lark Energy subsidiary was named as one of the top five solar farm developers in the UK.

Despite the problems created by politicians we have continued to invest heavily in research and development in both the housing sector and renewable energy.

As the year drew to a close we announced plans to build an ‘’elevating house’ – one which rises on jacks above flood waters – as an experiment to see if we can bring land currently blighted by flood risk into use for housing.

And we have won funding (from government, I have to acknowledge!) to put alongside our own money in taking our experimental solar steam project into India.

We aim to provide solar power for some of the world’s poorest communities that have no access to power from a grid.

So, overall, 2016 was a year of solid progress. But with government assistance rather than obstruction it could have been so much easier!