As befits a company that has been able to chalk up over 50 years of operation, Cumbria-based building contractors Cox and Allen (Kendal) Ltd has a strongly ingrained approach to delivering quality workmanship. This ethos once again came to the fore recently when it was Highly Commended at the 2016 Northern LABC Awards within the Best Public Services Building category for its work on Warcop Village Hall.
“Receiving this accolade means a great deal to the company as we strive to deliver high quality work on every job so it’s great to be recognised for that approach,” explains Steve Leahy, who as Estimating Director looked after all the pricing and estimating for the project. “Given the success of the project we’re now hoping to use it as a springboard to secure even more public service sector projects.”
In addition to its focus on quality, Cox and Allen’s ability to evolve has been a key part of its success in clocking up 50-plus years of business. “We started out as a stonewalling company but over the years we have evolved into a general construction firm. Rather than specialising in any particular area we can carry out new builds, refurbishments, industrial, commercial, private, local authority and design and build projects. We also have a specific small works maintenance team that deals with a lot of reactive maintenance and contracts up to about £20,000. At the other end of the scale we can carry out general construction projects up to £2m in value, so we have quite a range of work to go at.”
Supporting its activities, Cox and Allen has a strong core of around 30 full-time employees that are supplemented by sub-contracted labour and joiners that have long-established links with the company. This workforce enables the business to cover locations around one-hour drive from its Kendal office, an area that encompasses all of the Lakes, Cumbria, Lancashire and even parts of North Yorkshire. It generally doesn’t go much further afield to ensure that quality isn’t compromised by the company over-stretching itself too thinly.
In terms of the LABC Highly Commended project itself, it was a £700,000 contract that involved the construction of a steel frame building incorporating a great deal of stonework, traditional roofing, aluminium windows, external works and a considerable amount of ground works. Due to the location within the Lakes, getting the look of the building right to complement the surrounding area was very important and was where Cox and Allen’s long-standing expertise in stone really shone through.
“We certainly have a good working relationship with the LABC. We’ve won awards with them in the past and regularly liaise with them on the numerous public sector projects we have carried out for Eden Housing Association.”
Steve Leahy, Estimating Director
What makes the success of the Warcop Village Hall development all the more impressive is that it is nothing out of the ordinary for Cox and Allen. “It’s very typical of the work we carry out and there was certainly nothing particularly unusual about the build,” adds Mr Leahy. “It did involve a substantial amount of mechanical and electrical works but I wouldn’t say there was anything about the development that really stood out or was especially taxing. The biggest challenge was ensuring that we looked after the client correctly and continually liaised with the architects so that any late changes were incorporated without any problems. It was all about making sure the communication levels stayed strong. A lot of the time it’s about sitting down and coming up with solutions to the problems that you encounter. You’d certainly be extremely lucky to get a job that doesn’t have issues of some description that need resolving.”
Despite Mr Leahy’s modesty about what the project entailed for Cox and Allen, the LABC Awards judges were obviously impressed with the quality of the job and the approach it took, further building on what was already a good relationship with the organisation. “We certainly have a good working relationship with the LABC,” says Mr Leahy. “We’ve won awards with them in the past and regularly liaise with them on the numerous public sector projects we have carried out for Eden Housing Association.”
As it looks to build on the latest award success, Cox and Allen has seen a slight shift in the marketplace as competition becomes increasingly fierce. “Larger jobs have become more scarce but thankfully the number of smaller jobs has risen at the same time, particularly in terms of domestic work. That said, we’ve been starting to see a few more public sector jobs coming out to tender recently so hopefully this will continue into 2017.
For the year ahead I would like to think that we will continue to grow, while at the same time further improving the quality and the workmanship that we can provide. We’d also hope to take on some larger jobs as we strive to increase our turnover and build our reputation further so that even more work comes our way and the whole thing continues to snowball. If we add even more awards to our tally in the process, then even better.”