Planning Controls Mean We Cannot Meet Demand; Bill Gleeson Meets Frank Reil, Managing Director of David McLean's Homes and Developments Division

Article excerpt

Byline: Bill Gleeson

FRANK Reil says that many in his industry thought he was making a big mistake quitting his senior post at Bellway to take a job at David McLean.

Now managing director of the group's homes and developments division after a recent shake-up that saw Mark McNamee quit David McLean, Reil is in charge of two of the group's three divisions.

He said: ``It was a shock across the industry as people could not understand why I would leave Bellway to join David McLean, which at the time was struggling on the house building side.

``But I met David McLean and had a good down-to-earth chat and I got on with him and I felt he was a guy you could do things with and I could make things happen for him.

``His style is to let you get on with the job, and that's what he has done. ''

David McLean, the founder of David McLean the company, has been retired from the day-to-day management of the business for four years now.

The Deeside-based group does not have a single chief executive or managing director. Instead, it has two people running three divisions. As well as Reil running homes and developments, Ken Doulton runs the contracting side.

In total the business currently has a turnover of about pounds 200m.

The firm has two significant development projects in the pipeline.

The biggest is the pounds 300m Masshouse project in Birmingham city centre. As well as hundreds of apartments, the scheme involves 500, 000 sq ft of commercial office space. It involves replacing one of the ugliest bits of concrete jungle in Birmingham by removing a massive roundabout, underpass and multi-storey car park on the city's inner ring road.

``There's a lot of old stock in Birmingham that people want to get out of. And when they move out of the old stock, it allows us to move in and redevelop it, so it's a virtuous circle, '' says Reil.

The 10-year Masshouse project starts on site later this year. It is a joint venture with Nikal, a Manchester-based developer part owned by Alan Murphy, the Liverpool-born entrepreneur who made his fortune from toilet rolls.

David McLean's other major development is at the Kings Dock at Liverpool's waterfront. Here the company has been selected by landowner English Partnerships to build 375 apartments at a cost of pounds 75m as part of the wider redevelopment of the currently disused land next door to the Albert Dock.

The McLean deal is the first phase in a scheme that will see 1, 800 residential units constructed over a 15-year period. The firm is already developing 600 units at City Quay in the Herculaneum Dock to the south of the city.

``That's going well. We have sold about 400 of those units so far. It has been helped by Capital of Culture, which has brought in a lot of investors, '' says Reil.

The success of City Quay gives Reil confidence that the Kings Dock scheme will also be popular.

``It is located between two bits of water, the dock and the river.

``It also has stunning views up to the Anglican Cathedral. It's magnificent and there are not many British cities with a skyline like Liverpool's, '' says Reil.

``The trick with investors is to give them good specification in terms of an apartment that's not too big or too small. Most of them are after a two-bedroom, four-person apartment.

``But you can't survive on just investors. You need to have people who want to live there and buy flats for themselves.

``The market in Liverpool has taken off in the last five years and it has grown into a steady market. …