From local landscaping to helping to protect the…

From local landscaping to helping to protect the Amazon – the housebuilder that has become carbon neutral

From setting up its own quarry to investing in protecting the Amazon, Skipton Properties prides itself on caring about the environment.

By Annette McIntyre

The family business, which is based in Cross Hills, Keighley, Is approaching its first anniversary of becoming carbon neutral and is stressing its continuing commitment to doing its bit to help the planet.

The award-winning company became carbon neutral through carbon offsets in February 2022 – a continuation of a long-standing ethos emphasising environmentally friendly policies.

Sales, Marketing and Design Director Caroline Van Niekerk, whose father Brian Verity founded the company, said: “We became carbon neutral through carbon offsets in February. Being environmentally friendly has always been important to us, which is why we set up our own quarry over 15 years ago to recycle and re-use material we find on site.”

She said her father had been quite particular about the waste the company created and for many years had ensured they recycled everything they were able to.

Last year they partnered with environmental consultant Comply Direct to help them measure their emissions.

“With their help we’ve been able to calculate our environmental footprint, further analyse our emissions and reduce or transfer to renewables where possible,” Caroline said.

“Where we haven’t been able to reduce, we’ve invested in projects that offset that carbon footprint. We’ve invested in tree planting here in the UK and further afield invested in protecting the Amazon.”

The company has also announced that it has again partnered with the Yorkshire Millennium Trust to add additional landscaping to The Alders in Skipton. The project is described as “very much in its infancy” and it needs planning approval but Skipton Properties is hoping to announce the details soon. 

The housebuilder says its new homes have always been cheaper to run – by up to 65 per cent – when compared with a period property.

They say their homes are well insulated and use less water. For a number of years many of their properties have come with an electric car charging point – and they will be included in every home on all new sites from 2023.

The company has also formed a working group to go above and beyond changes in regulation and it says all its new developments for 2023 will be even more energy efficient.

Skipton Properties was founded by Brian Verity in 1986 and although he died last year, his daughters Sarah Barraclough and Caroline Van Niekerk say they are as passionate about the environment as he was.

Skipton Properties by Paul Joseph Photography

Sarah, who is managing director, says on the company’s website: “As a mother of two, our environment is a concern to me, and I’m determined to do everything we can to reduce our footprint.”

Caroline said: “You can’t have children and not be aware of the world you are leaving behind. This has always influenced the company’s values.”

She said the firm’s ethos and slogan of “New homes. Re-imagined” was born out of a desire to build a bit differently.

She explained: “We didn’t want to build boxes, we wanted to build homes with character, that could essentially compete with older properties as well as new.”

Because the company was established by a father and is now run by his two daughters, she said family was “at the heart of our company and the homes that we create”.

“Being a family business we’re very passionate about what we do, if we make a mistake we take it personally,” she added.

Caroline described herself and her sister as “two determined women” for whom joining the family business wasn’t always on the cards.

They actually set out to carve out their own careers – but their father could be very persuasive. What started with working alongside Skipton Properties in Sarah’s case soon turned into being encouraged to re-imagine how sales were offered and a chance to develop a brand-new department.

Similarly, in Caroline’s case, what was meant to be a brief project helping with the company’s marketing, soon turned into the opportunity to use her experience in advertising in London to bring the company into the 21st century.

The two sisters both say they didn’t know how much they would enjoy working for the family until they were dropped into it.

The emphasis on family also extends out to the company’s staff.

Caroline said: “We like to think of our team as an extension of our family so yes I think it does affect the way we think about our staff. It means we put a lot of importance on our employee’s work life balance, which is why we’ll only build within a certain radius of our head office.”

On its website the company says: “Inspiring our employees is a top priority which is why we engage with Investors in People. We like to encourage leadership at every level of our company and ensure every member of staff lives and breathes our values.”

Brian Verity was a keen supporter of good causes, including sports clubs, Manorlands Hospice, Airedale Hospital and the Cave Rescue Organisation.

And the company’s charitable work is continuing. This year it is partnering with The Principle Trust Children’s Charity, which provides free respite holidays to children who are underprivileged, disadvantaged, disabled, have life-limiting conditions, or who have experienced poverty, trauma or abuse.

Launched in 2011, the charity was established by Ilkley businessman Mike Davies. Over the past decade the trust has raised over £1m, bought six holiday homes and provided respite breaks for more than 4,000 children. Its holiday homes are in the Lake District, near Blackpool and in the Ribble Valley.

Caroline said: “We became patrons of the trust so we could help them make a difference to the lives of disadvantaged children in the region. The Trust’s main aim is to help improve the quality of life of children across Yorkshire who are underprivileged, disadvantaged, and disabled, through the provision of free holidays. Our role as a charity patron includes increased funding, support, awareness, visibility, and getting involved with fundraising activities.”

After the partnership was announced Sarah Barraclough, managing director of Skipton Properties, added: “We are excited to be joining the Principle Trust as patrons.

“Our family-first ethos is reflected in everything we do; from the design of our homes to our responsibilities to our employees. Our commitment to the trust will help them to provide free respite holidays to dozens more families every year.”

Mr Davies said: “We are delighted that Skipton Properties has joined the trust as a patron; they are a family firm with traditional values which align closely with our own ethos of supporting Yorkshire families. This partnership will form a significant part of our plans to expand services across the region.”

Skipton Properties has gone from strength to strength since it was set up in 1986.

Caroline said: “Brian’s very first development was in Skipton and the structure of the company, one of a large amount of directly employed staff, is a result of Brian’s frustrations when hiring contractors to build the development. He wanted to build efficiently yet with a quality that wasn’t very common at the time. To date we have built almost 4000 homes across Yorkshire and Lancashire, are known for Brian’s quality standards and have a number of awards under our belt. Our most recent, ‘Housebuilder of the year’ at the Construction Awards of Excellence is one we are very proud of and have re-entered this award for 2023 so we’ll keep our fingers crossed!”

The company’s recent developments include 77 new build homes in Silsden, 37 new and converted homes in Haworth, a development of four- and five-bedroom homes in Addingham and a development of 98 new homes in Skipton.

In October Skipton Properties was given the go-ahead for a scheme in Lancashire.

“We are thrilled to have been granted planning permission for 17 two-storey detached and semi-detached homes in Foulridge, Lancashire,” Caroline said.

“The development will comprise of thirteen 3-bedroom and four 4-bedroom dwellings provided as six different house styles. We’ll be creating an attractive and desirable development designed in a traditional manner that is in keeping with the character of the village of Foulridge, and we can’t wait to commence our development next year.”

On its website the company says: “We care about the impact we have on the areas we build in and focus on creating developments that enhance communities. We give back to the communities by donating to the services that support them.”