Housebuilder Interview

Hopkins Homes is the kind of housebuilder the government wants to know about, according to executive chairman James Hopkins. This is because, he explains, the company is a medium sized housebuilder that is growing rapidly while remaining steadfast to its good design prinicples.

The govenment chose Alconbury Weald, a vast Urban & Civic scheme of which Hopkins is a part, to launch Homes England - the rebranded Homes and Communities Agency, in January. James Hopkins is, naturally, pleased with this. His properties are also prime place at the front of the site, introducing the development.

And Hopkins Group - consisting of Hopkins Homes and sister company Hopkins & Moore - is happy with its swift progress in recent times. The company, which started life as a single renovation project in 1985, now builds high quality homes in Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex. In 2017 it delivered 1,000 homes after delivering around 300 just four years previously. "We've expanded hugely over the past five years", Hopkins confirms. "We've gone from being a smal to a medium player, and we're now the largest housebuilder in Suffolk and Norfolk. Most national housebuilders won't build 750 homes out of one region. "There is a critical need for some more SMEs like Hopkins Group, its boss says. The company plans to continue expanding across its existing regions.

Hopkins Group maintains its design focus thanks to a strong management team, "With a fantastic board of directors", its boss says. There is a large design team, 90% of whom are in-house.

The ethos

"Good design is our ethos. We're not just about numbers and profits although of course we want to be profitable. We get out of bed always passionate about design; we want to be better than the average box." Good design need not be costly, he insists. It is a matter of assembling the right materials in the right way. "It's about proportions - wooden windows and the brick to window ratio. It doesn't have to cost more to get these things right, but by investing in quality materials we can create homes which will look good and stand the test of time. It's not complicated to build a house and make it look better."

As the company's reputation for design flair has grown, it has increasingly been asked to produce "gateway" schemes. Urban & Civic's Alconbury Weald in Cambridgeshire is one example. A 5,000-home scheme once complete, U&C has provided infrastructure - including roads and a school - and invited housebuilders to deliver on smaller parcels of the land. Other builders on site so far are Redrow and Morris Homes. U&C was seeking an exemplar developer, and Hopkins Group won the tender. Now the 128-homes of the company's first phase are almost complete. "We're using a lot of buff bricks", Hopkins says. "You access the scheme through a bridge." The company has agreed terms on the next phase of 189 properties and more is hopefully to come with U&C, "We see our work with Urban & Civic as a long-term partnership. They've got the same ethos as we have; they're passionate about doing things right. We're looking to partner them on other sites."

Alconbury Weald and more. Hopkins Homes' collection of properties at Urban & Civic's Alconbury Weald are in 20 designs, including two-bedroom coach houses and terraced houses, three-bedroom terraced, semi-detached and contemporary town houses, as well as detached family homes. The mix of styles and sizes offers something for all - first time buyers to larger families and those looking to downsize.

The housebuilder's careful craftsmanship runs throughout the homes. James Hopkins instructed a local interior designer to look at the show home and consider how a family could use the space. Interesting, helpful touches include a pantry off the kitchen in the Whittlesey house type - a five-bedroom three floor home.

Some of the homes feature bay windows, with sash windows in the stately living room of the Whittlesey. The top floor of this house type could almost serve as a seperate flat with its living room/social space, bedroom and bathroom. And the study's circular window on the second floor adds a note of distinction.

With all home types, buyers can select tiling, kitchen cabinet finishes and worktops depending on the stage of construction.

Hopkins' properties at Alconbury Weald are part of a 5,000-home community of 1,425 acres on a former cold war airfield. Other facilities include 1 million sq ft of commercial space, four schools and an Enterprise Zone.

Another Hopkins Homes scheme underway is Prospect Place in Framlingham, a blend of apartments and houses which form a gateway to the historic market town in Suffolk.

Taking inspiration from the site's industrial past, Hopkins Homes used a variety of architectural details to link the homes of Prospect Place with the history of the area.