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Yorkshire house builder joins the tiltrotator revolution

Sat on the banks of the River Aire and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, the North Yorkshire town of Skipton sits just to the South of the picturesque Yorkshire Dales. As is commonplace across the UK, there is a high demand for housing within the locality and one of the region’s best local housebuilders has built a reputation on delivering architecturally impressive and environmentally friendly homes for for almost four decades.

Founded in 1986 by the late Brian Verity, Skipton Properties has grown to become one of the region’s premier development companies. From turning former derelict mills into stunning contemporary living and retail accommodation, to sympathetically developing greenfield sites, the award-winning company has built an enviable reputation not only for their product, but also for the way in which their teams deliver these new homes of distinction.

Like any development, the initial stages of the work involve building sound foundations, installing roads, sewers, and landscaping works. This has been the remit of experienced Civils Manager Roger Sadler. “I’ve worked for Skipton Properties for 28 years! I first met Brian, our founder, over 30 years ago, helping him on some of the company’s first developments.” Roger commented. “Today, I manage all of our civils and groundworks, so a lot of what I do goes unseen by our customers. I also manage all of our plant machinery; we’re a little bit different to other developers in that we own a lot of our own machinery, which means we can take on challenging developments with difficult topography. I love what I do, there’s always a challenge, but the finished homes we build make it all worth it.”

Part of Roger’s remit is the purchasing of new equipment and that has included a pair of new engcon EC214S tiltrotators fitted to the company’s latest Volvo ECR145E excavators. “We have run various brands of excavators over the years, some good, some bad.” He comments. “Our operators get asked their opinion on what they think is the best kit out there and we always take a look to see what is about. The Volvos have been a good machine and that can be said about the engcon tiltrotators we are now running underneath both of our new ECR145E excavators. We don’t operate a huge fleet. All we want is equipment that can do the job, is reliable and has the back-up of the dealer if and when things do go wrong.”

The company keeps all of its civil engineering operations in-house. The two ECR145E excavators are joined by a 35t ECR355E and a handful of smaller mini diggers used to complete landscaping and small works as the developments progress. The larger Volvo is used almost entirely for the early-stage development operations such as road building, deep drainage, and site stripping. The 15t ECR145E excavators are seen as the bread-and-butter machines undertaking almost every other project on the site and are therefore required to be versatile and productive as well as being reliable.

Tilt and Rotate met up with Roger and David Leek, regular operator of one of the smaller Volvo excavators, on a new development on the outskirt of Silsden, just a couple of miles from the company’s HQ. The development on the outskirts of Silsden will eventually see 44 new properties constructed from natural stone and slate blend perfectly with the existing properties but for now, the machines were busy stripping the site and installing drains.

David has been an operator for Skipton Properties for 23 years split into two spells. “They are a very good company to work for.” He commented. “They look after you personally, and you always get very good kit to work with.” David’s new Volvo is three months old and carries one of the company’s EC214s engcon tiltrotators complete with removable gripper unit and EC-Oil quick coupling. “Having the EC-Oil has been brilliant in just this short space of time.” David commented. “I was a little hesitant at first to be dropping the tiltrotator off, but it is so quick and easy to do, it’s like second nature now. Whilst it is handy to be able to drop it off if I’m working in a trench box, I don’t want to be without it for too long!” The benefit of EC-Oil allows David to remove the tiltrotator when he is required to use a hammer for rock breaking work reducing the potential for any damage.

Whilst the tiltrotator wasn’t really required for his main job when we visited, loading topsoil into dumpers for transport across the site, the gripper unit came in handy for picking various bits of material out of the soil and putting them to one side.” You don’t realise just how useful the gripper is until you haven’t got it!” He commented. “If the branch or plastic had been loaded into the dumper, someone at the other end of the job would have to be climbing out of the cab and removing it by hand when I’ve done it easily and safely in seconds. I would like to see not just the time I have saved over the years using a tiltrotator, but I also believe that having a one does away with having a man on the ground in certain circumstances too, and that can mean large financial savings too.”

Part of the recent development included the demolition of a run-down bungalow which David demolished using just his bucket and gripper. “Once we pushed the building to the floor, it was a case of picking the recyclable material out using the gripper.” He commented. “The gripper unit on the first tiltrotator I ever used, didn’t close enough to pick smaller items up, but this one on the engcon is a lot better, a much closer grip with the joysticks feeding back the movement on the tiltrotator better than anything I’ve used in the past.”

Roger is also a big believer in the time and cost savings the engcon tiltrotators have brought the company since they were introduced. “We install a lot of drainage on our projects and having the ability to batter a trench back to ensure its stability means we don’t need a trench box.” He explained. “This saves us time as does turning the bucket around to accurately place pipe bedding on top of pipes or around large concrete inspection chambers. Just having the ability to place this one material accurately has saved us hundreds, if not thousands of pounds over the last few years of operating machines with tiltrotators. We are not a big company by any way, shape or form, but what we do is do things right, do things cost effectively, and having engcon tiltrotators helps us achieve that goal.”

« I was a little hesitant at first to be dropping the tiltrotator off, but it is so quick and easy to do, it’s like second nature now. »

David Leek
Skipton Properties

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