Brand new 3,500 homes-a-year Bardon factory had been put up for sale by Countryside prior to Vistry buyout

Housebuilder Vistry is planning to use the brand-new offsite factory it acquired as part of the purchase of Countryside to sell modular homes to housing associations and SME developers as well as supply its own build programme.

Stephen Teagle, chief executive of Vistry’s partnerships housing arm, now known as Countryside Partnerships, confirmed the “incredible” facility at Bardon, which had been built at a cost of £20m and then quickly mothballed by Countryside following a review, will now be retained by the group.

Prior to the £1.1bn November 2022 acquisition of Countryside by Vistry, Countryside had put the Leicestershire timber frame factory up for sale, with losses at the new facility blamed in part for a huge profit warning which forced the departure of chief executive Iain McPherson a year ago.

The 3,500 homes-a-year capacity factory at Bardon is the newest of three owned by Countryside to come across with the deal, with Teagle saying the two older factories were already “fully deployed” delivering homes for group’s development pipeline.

Teagle said Vistry was still developing its plans for the massive 380,000 sq ft Bardon plant, given its huge capacity. He said: “You go there and you think, where’s the end? You will be astonished at the sheer scale of it.

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“We are committed to reinvest, to continue to use the factory. So, we’re not closing down Bardon, quite the opposite we’re looking to increase production.

“We will be bringing those [other] existing factories up to full capacity through our own and through our own programmes of delivery.”

But he added: “Our hope is we will be using Bardon for our own delivery, but in addition to that, there is capacity at Bardon to work with SMEs, to work with housing associations on delivery of their own programmes through that factory.”

In its half year results to March 31 this year, Countryside reported losses of £6.5m from its manufacturing businesses, of which, it said, approximately £3m was in relation to the new facility at Bardon. In April it said it was cutting staff at its MMC sites and reviewing “all options”.

The news comes a week after Essex-based housebuilder Weston took possession of a £40m light gauge steel frame offsite housing factory, potentially capable of producing 4,000 homes a year from June this year. Both ventures follow a difficult year for MMC housing last year, with high-profile ventures by Urban Splash and Caledonian Modular going into administration.

Teagle has previously told Housing Today that Vistry’s partnerships business plans a rapid expansion over the next few years, despite the weakness in the market.

On Friday Countryside Partnerships signed a deal with housing association Torus to build out a 1,200-home scheme in Warrington, with the project due to make use of Countryside Partnerships’ modular construction factory in Warrington.

Vistry said last week the value of its forward order book had soared by 70% to £4.6bn, largely as a result of the Countryside deal, despite the slowdown in the market.