SCOTTISH housebuilding veteran Ed Monaghan has returned to the industry to work on a new private homes division at construction firm Clark Contracts.

Mr Monaghan, who spent more than 40 years with Glasgow housebuilder Mactaggart & Mickel, has joined Paisley-based Clark as a non-executive director and is already on the hunt for potential development sites.

The new division marks a major diversification by Clark, which has largely focused on the construction sector during its 45-year history. Nova Homes will target the market for “family starter homes” and will complement Clark’s work in the affordable homes and student accommodation sectors.

Mr Monaghan left his role as chief executive of Mactaggart & Mickel in October following the acquisition of its long-established housebuilding business by Springfield Properties in a deal worth £46.3million. He originally joined the firm as an apprentice in the 1980s.

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Gordon Cunningham, managing director of Clark Contracts who also heads Nova Homes, approached Mr Monaghan following his departure from Mactaggart & Mickel. He said the recruitment of Mr Monaghan has accelerated the company’s move into private housebuilding, noting that while Clark had been mulling the idea for more than 20 years, it had “never been the right time”.

Mr Cunningham told The Herald that Mr Monaghan has the "right person" with the "experience" and "gravitas" Clark had been looking for. He said: “It is just good to have someone who you ask a direct question and get a direct answer [from], based on all that experience. It is very different to my experience. I’ve obviously got a lot of experience as well, so hopefully the two together is what makes this a good opportunity for both of us. We are both quite excited about it.”

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Mr Cunningham noted that housebuilding is a “very different industry to construction”, where Clark’s expertise traditionally lies. And while conditions are challenging in the housebuilding market because of recent rises in interest rates, he said there is less demand for sites, offering opportunties from a development perspective.

Nova Homes will look for sites to develop but Mr Cunningham did not rule out acquisitions as it bids to establish itself in the market.

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He said: “Ed’s on board now and it is starting from scratch as a start-up, looking for land and building it from there. But [we have] interest in potential acquisitions of housebuilders. The main thing is we are not based solely on that.”

Mr Monaghan said Nova will seek to address a shortage of stock on the market for family homes in Scotland. He said: “That is where both Gordon and myself see the opportunity, to create a new platform for delivering homes. I’m really excited by the fact Clark has got such a huge reputation for quality builds and at an affordable price. We believe that together we can make a real difference in the housing market and be complementary to the other services that Clark already provides.

“From my perspective, it was a great opportunity when Gordon called. My past career was very much delivering housing… I see a great opportunity to continue that with a business that has got a like-minded view.”

And Mr Monaghan said that Nova was “not ruling anything out” with regard to the type of homes it will ultimately build.

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He added: “One of the sites we are looking at is actually for a conversion, and again utilising Clark’s reputation, knowledge, and experience in doing work like that. It will be predominantly family starter homes but with opportunities attached around about that.”

Mr Cunningham noted that many of the affordable housing projects Clark works on through the public procurement process involve a mix of homes, meaning that the new venture will "cross over nicely”.

He said: “The timing is right from that perspective, where we are building up the supply chain and the knowledge within the business, as well as with student accommodation which is very akin to flats.

“The site identification we are doing just now could straddle all of those things. We are not tying ourselves to any one type.”

Mr Monaghan’s role at Clark will range from identifying development opportunities to customer service, which he said Clark has a “great reputation” for within its existing business.

He added: “It is a great opportunity from my perspective. It is a nice fresh start. Of course, I had a great career at Mactaggart & Mickel and I wish my colleagues all the best with what they are going on to do. But this is the new venture, and I am excited by it. I am enthused as well by what Gordon and his team can bring to the delivery of new homes in Scotland.”

Mr Cunningham said: “We have hit the ground running very fast. I wasn’t expecting to be looking at opportunities in the second week, but we are.”

The latest accounts for Clark show that it turned over £100 million for the first time as it continued its recovery from the disruption that arose from the pandemic in the year to October 2022, up from £82.6m.

Speaking to The Herald about the accounts in February, Mr Cunningham said the landmark figure had been reached despite the challenges that have followed in the wake of Covid, including labour shortages and a sharp rise in cost-price inflation.