Historic Hull building firm cuts nine jobs to boost longevity

A family firm, which has been building and renovating properties in East Yorkshire for more than 140 years is streamlining its business in a bid to improve profitability after several years of construction sector challenges compounded by Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic.

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

Houlton whose projects include Hymers College built in 1893, is to consolidate its construction division into its building and maintenance division with the loss of up to nine jobs.

Richard Houlton, life president of the company, which was founded in 1879, said: “Job losses are regrettable, but we have kept them to a minimum and we are confident that these steps will help us improve the profitability and continued longevity of the business moving forward.

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“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.”

Mr Houlton 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 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) because occupiers had to stay at home.

But by July 2020 Houlton had about 80 per cent of its staff safely back at work, having initially furloughed around 90 per cent. The company has managed to continue construction work during the second and third lockdowns and has been able to deliver high quality, noteworthy projects under extremely tough conditions, with a forward order book worth more than £20m.

Having completed several 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 new ERYC Beverley Business Centre, a £4m project at Grovehill due for completion later this year.

Following the successful delivery of projects for Hull Esteem at St Mary’s College and Kelvin Hall School – worth a total of £7.8m – Houlton have received new project requests for the expansion of two more secondary schools in Hull, with work due to start in December for completion September 2022 at a total cost of £6m.

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

Another heritage project was the completion last year of a beautifully landscaped new garden at The Hepworth Wakefield Garden.

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James Mitchinson