In June 2020, Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined planning reforms and a £12bn investment in affordable housing projects with the aim to cut red tape and speed up housebuilding in England.

As the housing landscape across England rapidly changes, the Homes England Affordable Housing Programme 2021-26 has provided assurances of a bright future beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yorkshire is just one area of the UK that is seeing widespread development, with frameworks including YORhub and Efficiency North playing a key role in enhancing the affordable housing provision in the region.

As opportunities increase, Esh Construction has become a key player in the sector with more than £50m of new affordable housing schemes spread across all corners of the region in 2021.

The contractor recently added the £9.5m Lady Ida Lodge, a 64-apartment extra care facility in Cookridge, to its portfolio of completed developments, while sustainability is at the heart of the Leeds city centre project, The Ironworks, where 68 energy-efficient homes will be completed later this year.

Divisional Director Stuart Leslie is driving development in the White Rose county, where Esh expects to deliver more than 500 homes in the next two years in both private and public sectors.

He said: “The injection of Government investment in this sector has opened up major opportunities across our region, and our teams and partners have worked tirelessly over the past two years and during the pandemic to identify land and develop sites which are much needed within the communities we identify.”

While there has been a recovery of construction activity across the UK in the last few months, increased activity, combined with implications from the pandemic and Brexit, has meant developers are in the midst of a materials shortage.  

Leslie added: “Although opportunities remain strong, the current shortages of building materials and skilled labour is an immediate concern and may stifle delivery across the UK. Hopefully, these current shortages and price increases will right themselves as the world moves out of the current crisis and raw materials become more readily available.

“Growth in this sector and the region is visible for at least three years. However, it’s still challenging to all stakeholders as we drive our growth with the increasing demand for building products across the UK.”

In January, Esh Construction announced a record order book of £300m following a restructure of the business which saw it focus on core divisions – civil engineering, commercial build, affordable housing, facilities management, and private housing.

That restructure has now permitted the northern contractor to ramp up its efforts in Yorkshire, with the firm’s affordable housing division being underpinned by registered affordable housing providers and public sector clients, as well as key frameworks.


Simon Woodward has been appointed as Operations Manager to strengthen the division. With 27 years of experience in managerial and director roles at Starfish Commercial, Frank Haslam Milan, and Lovell Partnerships, he will grow the division to assist an ever-expanding portfolio of projects.

Part of this growth will see Esh work closely with the Efficiency North Shared Apprentice Scheme, EN:Able Futures, with no fewer than 17 apprentices set to be hired before the end of 2021.

Leslie added: “The shortage of a skilled workforce can only be fixed if our industry, supported by the government, both local and central, move quickly to encourage training and recruitment across all ages in order to ensure we can deliver on the Government’s plan.”

The early part of 2021 has seen a buzz of activity in West Yorkshire, with the commencement of a £9.2m development in Pemberton Road, Castleford, that will transform brownfield land into 82 new homes, and a combined £5.5m value on schemes at Greenhill Road and Colin Barnaby Court in Wakefield set to provide 38 new affordable homes on behalf of WDH.

In Halifax, Esh is on site delivering 105 new homes for Together Housing Group, a £13.5m development which was directly appointed via the Efficiency North framework.

“As we come out of the pandemic, we have also seen more engagement from local authorities to develop their land stock,” added Leslie. “Our own experience with developing tricky brownfield parcels of land is proving highly attractive to these bodies and we have already begun to engage with many local authorities.”

As land led developments alleviate the workload for providers, contractors are bringing their technical nous to the fore and collaborating with landowners and registered providers to marry up their expertise.

In Yorkshire, this technique has been used for acquiring land at Highfield Road in Askern, Doncaster, where Esh will work with Housing 21 and Together Housing Group to deliver a £16m development comprising 56 affordable homes, 12 bungalows, and a 58-apartment retirement living building.

The Government has made its intentions clear for recovery across the construction sector in 2021. Affordable housing is thriving in Yorkshire, and Esh Construction is poised ready to support its delivery.

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