Housebuilding legend died on Friday, aged 72

Tributes from across the political spectrum, rival firms and former staff have poured in for Berkeley Group founder Tony Pidgley who died last week, aged 72.

The FTSE 100 housebuilder announced his death late on Friday afternoon, provoking a flood of messages.

Tony Pidgley speaking at the Ecobuild conference 2016

Pidgley in 2016

Among those paying tribute were current housing secretary Robert Jenrick, former chancellor Sajid Javid and former housing minister and current Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis.

Current housing minister Christopher Pincher said: “Very sad to hear [the] news. He was one of the best known, successful and most respected figures in the housing sector.”

A former Barnardo’s boy, who spent his early life living in a disused railway carriage, Pidgley left school at 15 and went on to found his own haulage and plant hire company. He sold the business at the age of 19 to Crest Homes and became a director where he learned the housebuilding industry.

From there Pidgley left to found Berkeley in 1976, growing the business to become one of the country’s largest housebuilders.

Steve Morgan, who set up rival firm Redrow, also in the 1970s, called him “a titan of our industry who leaves a tremendous legacy to the industry as a whole”. And Urban Splash chairman Tom Bloxham said he was “one of a kind and always super helpful and respectful to a young upstart like me”.

Former Labour transport secretary Andrew Adonis, who held the post between 2009 and 2010, said: “[He] was the most ruthless yet talented property developer I dealt with in my time in government.”

And the former Labour leader of Haringey council in north London, Claire Kober, who is now director of housing at affordable homes group Pinnacle, added: “Tony was personable, pioneering and has an inspirational back story. A brilliant businessman, he was a one off. He will be missed by so many of us in the wider sector.”

Create Streets, the group set up seven years ago by Building Beautiful co-author Nicholas Boys Smith to promote better quality housing, said: “Very, very sad to hear of [his] sudden death. His character was Dickensian in the best possible way: brilliant, straight-talking, driven, presumably ruthless in a deal (we never saw that side) but also kind, complex.”

Former Wates chief executive Paul Dreschler hailed him as having “a natural understand[ing and] real nose for opportunity and [the] impact of well targeted property development – his footprint in London is massive”.

And his former PA Becky Stevens, who now runs a florists in Hampshire, said he was “an amazing man, an inspirational man, an awkward but rewarding boss and the man who shaped me to be the woman I am today”.

In a statement, Berkeley thanked everyone for “all of the kind messages and tributes”.