Now one of the UK’s leading civil engineering specialists for a range of infrastructure projects, Chasetown Civil Engineering (Chasetown) began as a small roads and sewers business. Founded 48 years ago by a well-known local businessman and developer, Noel Sweeney, Chasetown is 100 per cent self-made and part of the wider Tara Developments (Tara) group, including home builders Cameron, Gallier, and Keon Homes for which Noel acted as Chairman until his passing in early 2020.
“The company started off on Chasetown High Street in Burntwood, Staffordshire,” recalls Euan Grant, Managing Director of Chasetown. “Just five years later, we decided to move – about 200 yards down the road! We have remained in that location ever since. So, as a business, our history is really important to us. At the time of that first move, all we did was complete roads and sewers projects for residential house builders.”
However, by the turn of the millennium, Chasetown noticed that its clients were demanding a one-stop shop for all things construction and civil engineering. Fortunately, the company took that on board and diversified its operations. “We quickly took on the groundworks elements,” Euan explains. “Now we will take the site we are working on to damp course level; the house builder will then add the superstructure, and after the scaffold is down we will come back to complete back gardens and finishing around the plots, such as footpaths, driveways, bin stores, and so on.
“We have become the one-stop shop that our long-standing clients were asking for all those years ago,” he goes on. “As a market leader, we can take you from a green field site, adding in road connections to the existing sewers system, building the foundations to damp course standard, and then we can come back in and finish off the project for your final surfacing. To complete these, we have our own roads and sewers, groundworks, finishing, remedial, and surfacing gangs.
“We pretty much cover the Midlands, so we will work from Manchester to Northampton and Leicester to Shrewsbury,” Euan details. “The majority of our labour is central to that area; most live in the Cannock to Stoke and Birmingham region. So, we cover quite a large footprint – all with one office! While many competitors have branched out with satellite offices, we have chosen to stick with one as we believe it offers more control.”
Leveraging over four decades of industry experience and knowledge, Chasetown remains a privately-owned company. In doing so, the company endeavours to orbit around its clients and their individual needs; project after project, Chasetown views jobs – regardless of size or scale – as being part of an ongoing, fruitful relationship with those it serves.
That approach has not gone unnoticed. As well as winning numerous awards within the construction industry, the high-quality and innovative civil engineering solutions for which the company is now widely recognised has also led to an impressive annual turnover – averaging around £90 million over the past five years.
By specialising in infrastructure, groundworks, and related building services, moreover, Chasetown consistently works on projects with values ranging from £500,000 to £50 million. No matter the requirements, it is expected that the Staffordshire-based firm will rise to the challenge. It is a reputation built over time, first-class customer service, and with a highly skilled team of labourers and support staff. Complexity, it seems, is a friend of Chasetown.
Investing in people
Chasetown’s civil and infrastructure services encompass everything from storm and foul sewers, soakaways, swales, attenuation, and balancing ponds, to retaining and screen walls, Section 278 works, and pump station works. In 2019, the company laid over ten kilometres of roads, sewers, and footpaths as part of its road construction services, along with groundworks services for over 1000 homes and 15 clients. Chasetown also offers earthworks and excavation services, utilising innovative 3D excavator technology.
“Being a one-stop shop is a key strength of ours, there is no doubt about that,” Euan says. “Clients typically prefer to work with one contractor – having just one point of contact is much easier for all involved. It works well for us. Though, admittedly, it is not always the most economical – but it works very well in terms of on-site efficiency.”
Another strength of Chasetown is its company culture. “It has always been about looking after people, especially those on the ground,” Euan asserts. “All the team are aware that we are one giant support network – and that includes those in the office, those in back-of-house, and those on-site that are delivering projects in the field. In this way, everyone knows they have a place; we treat our people with respect, and we look after those that are loyal to us. Recruitment is essential, and the whole process begins there. You have to believe in people, and you have to give them opportunities to develop themselves.
“We treat our people as people,” he goes on. “It sounds simple, but so many forget it. Therefore, we absolutely reward their loyalty and hard work – each and every day. As a result, we have a range of employees that have been with the business for more than 30 years and some of our groundworks gangs have been a team for more than two decades. It stands as testament to the kind of culture that we have worked so hard to cultivate here over the years, and one that I intend to continue.”
Since the pandemic, Chasetown has doubled down on its efforts to promote from within and foster a culture of continuous improvement. As part of that, it has begun to roll out an intense internal development plan – an academy of sorts – within the wider Tara group of companies, which will cover those from entry level to those acting as directors.
“We wholly believe in this growth programme,” Euan declares. “More importantly, though, we wholly believe in those who are embracing a strong career path with Chasetown. We are not here for a quick buck, so to speak; we want to be here in 100 years’ time – still owned by the same family, still looking after our people. Consequently, we must invest in those people, values, and core processes today. Right now.”
For these efforts, Chasetown was recognized with the Investment in Training Award for 2022 at the most recent BSG Awards, an event hosted by The Building Safety Group. Externally, Chasetown is committed to how it interacts with collaborators and partners, too. Two recently announced projects attest to this, with the Staffordshire-based firm winning major contracts with Bloor Homes in Newport, a company that it has been working with for around 25 years, and another with Miller Homes in Priorslee, Telford. For the latter, Chasetown has already completed nearly two miles of spine road in the last year alone, which is certainly an impressive feat.
As Euan points out, once again the success factor in these projects comes down to how you treat people. “It is 100 per cent about relationships,” he expounds. “One, at site level; two, at management level; and three, at director level. Relationships are strong all the way down the business. But they are also strong outside it. We have worked with several suppliers for more than 25 years. We do not switch on a daily basis; rather, we look to establish long-standing relationships that stand the test of time. All this is fundamental to managing our supply chain.”
When we ask about the future of Chasetown, Euan is quick to jest: “Who has the crystal ball these days?” It is true, though. In the current geopolitical climate, even the best laid plans are hard to formalise – and even harder to see through. However, Chasetown is looking to achieve a 10 per cent productivity gain by the end of the year, and that will mean investment.
“We set out to own a certain percentage of our plant and vehicles,” reveals Euan. “With a fairly rigid investment plan for the next five years, we aim to get all our older machinery offsite; alongside that, we intend to invest in the relevant plant equipment, including the acquisition of new excavators (from 30 tonnes down to three). We are also investing in Leica GPS technology for all our 13 and 20 tonne excavators, which will offer us a range of advantages, such as allowing our engineers to identify site drains and build survey maps.
“The economists have said there is going to be a recession by the end of the year,” he concludes. “The cost of land coupled with that of materials has gone up dramatically. But we will not let that stop us. We always have our ear to the ground, and we are looking forward to being a stronger, family-owned business in years to come, as the next generations step in.”