Outlook for Cornwall Remains Bright, Say Expanding Architects

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The CSA Architects team, reaping the reward for expansion, are pictured beside the River Fal close to their new headquarters in Truro.
Crest of a Wave: The CSA Architects team, reaping the reward for expansion, are pictured beside the River Fal close to their new headquarters in Truro.

One of Cornwall’s largest architectural practices is celebrating the first anniversary of its move to a larger base in Truro with further expansion and an optimistic assessment of the county’s business climate.

Since moving to Heron Way, Newham, CSA Architects has achieved 25 per cent growth in turnover and increased its staff level to 22, the highest in its 18-year history.

It is targeting further turnover growth of 15 to 20 per cent in the coming year, with capacity for 12 more drawing staff in its new offices.

The rosy picture follows the re-launch of the former Christopher Smith Associates in 2006 with the creation of new dedicated departments.

Justin Dodge
Justin Dodge, Managing Director.

“We have never been so busy,” says managing director Justin Dodge.  “Whilst there is no denying an economic downturn, Cornwall very much has its own economy in which commercial and industrial developments continue to thrive, especially with sustained European grant funding through the new Convergence fund.”

He observes:  “There has been a reduction in developer-led residential schemes,  but other residential development continues with luxury houses for private clients and an increased workload with housing associations to deliver affordable housing.

“The tighter economic climate has had an immediate impact on construction costs, where we have experienced a 10 – 15% reduction over the past three months.

“Ultimately, there is a limited supply of available development land in the county and so  demand continues to outstrip supply. The future still looks very bright for us and for development in Cornwall generally. There will be new opportunities to bring forward development land, under the new unitary authority.”

Mr Dodge said his firm’s extensive experience of grant-funded projects enabled it to maximize clients’ opportunities to benefit from such funding.

“We have a very broad client base and are currently working on 140 live projects across Cornwall,” said Mr Dodge. “Historically, we were working on contract values ranging from £100,000 to around £1 million.  Now the range is £300,000 to £35 million.

“Over the next five years, I think the trend will be for the smaller architectural practices to get smaller still and maybe disband, while the larger practices will grow bigger, with a greater number of specialist capabilities, which is what we at CSA now have.”

The Newham base is three times the size of CSA’s original headquarters in Falmouth, where a small office in High Street is still manned by founder Christopher Smith, now semi-retired.

The firm’s  latest recruits are Tony Martin (RIBA), who joins as an associate, Ben Ingall, Malcolm Bunn, Paul Scott, all senior architectural technicians, Sally Jones, Perran Trewhela, Louisa Meek and Mark James, architectural assistants, and Andrew Tate, finance manager.

CSA has also been been seconded to represent the private sector, as part of a steering group assisting with the formation of the planning and development services of the new “One Cornwall” unitary authority for the county, planned for April 2009.