£20m project pipeline for building firm as it restructures its operations

A family firm, which has been building and renovating landmark properties in Hull and East Yorkshire for more than 140 years is streamlining its business in readiness for new projects worth more than £20m.

Houlton, whose projects include Hymers College built in 1893 and a series of modern secondary school improvements carried out as part of Hull Esteem Consortium, is to consolidate its construction division into its building and maintenance division.

The firm’s directors say the move is expected to result in the loss of up to nine jobs. But they add it will bring benefits for the wider workforce of around 130 and improve profitability.

The decision comes after several years of construction sector challenges compounded by Brexit and the pandemic.

Richard Houlton, life president of the company, said: “Job losses are regrettable, but we have kept them to a minimum and we are confident these steps will help us improve the profitability and continued longevity of the business moving forward.

“We are busy and expect to be busier, with exciting new projects and repeat business from longstanding clients.

“By merging two divisions into one and cutting back on some of the overheads we will create a more streamlined company that looks towards the future.”

He said costs have been a concern in the construction sector for some time, even before the economic uncertainty of the Brexit referendum caused the cancellation of some large-scale projects.

More recently supply chain and customs issues post-Brexit have interrupted deliveries of materials, resulting in some delays on site.

COVID-19 brought fresh problems in March 2020 with the closure of most sites including delays in re-roofing council houses for East Riding of Yorkshire Council (ERYC).

But by July 2020 Houlton had about 80% of its staff safely back at work, having initially furloughed around 90%.

The company managed to continue construction work during the second and third lockdowns.

Having completed projects for Hull Esteem under a Partnering Service Agreement, including the refurbishment of the Ferens Art Gallery in Hull and the renovation of Trinity Market, Houlton has also manufactured the steel, timber and glass for The Vigil art-project.

This cabin is giving 730 people the opportunity, one at a time, to watch sunrise and sunset over the city of Hull from a vantage point on top of Hull College.

Houlton recently completed the £7m Sandburn Hall Hotel near York and the company is now on site at the ERYC Beverley Business Centre, a £4m project at Grovehill due for completion later this year.

Following the delivery of projects for Hull Esteem at St Mary’s College and Kelvin Hall School – worth a total of £7.8m – Houlton has received new project requests for the expansion of two more secondary schools in Hull, with work due to start in December at a total cost of £6m.

Having completed the renovation of the inside of Hull Minster in 2018, Houlton will return to the property to build a £1.7m extension on South Church Side.

Other new projects to start include a £1.7m veterinary practice at Bridlington and a £500,000 scheme for Wykeland at Flemingate in Beverley to build an education facility for disabled young adults.

In addition, a Fire Protection Division set up by Houlton in January, has secured a £4m contract from ERYC to install and maintain fire doors over the next four years.

Richard Houlton said: “This restructuring will allow us to run a more agile organisation that can adapt and react to our clients’ needs in an ever-changing marketplace.

“As well as the 130 people directly employed by the business, we provide work for many sub-contractors, most of them based within 30 miles of our office.”