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New build starts fall in 2019

The number of new build starts fell by 7% to 157,550 in the year to September 2019, signalling that the government is failing to meet its housebuilding targets.

On a more positive note completions rose by 9% to 177,980 – however that is still well short of the government’s aim to deliver 300,000 homes a year.

Clive Docwra, managing director of construction consulting and design agency McBains, said: “The government has set a target of delivering a million homes in the next five years, yet today’s figures show that the construction industry is way off meeting those rates on current trends.

“Annual new build starts in the year to September 2019 saw a decrease of 7% on the previous year, and while completions totalled close to 178,000, we need to be building more than 200,000 homes each year to meet the government’s ambitions.

“Last month’s Queen’s Speech contained lots of detail on demand-side measures – such as first-time buyers being offered a discount on purchases – but nothing on the supply side.

“The government needs to set out how it intends to boost housebuilding and increase the supply of new homes needed to tackle the housing crisis, such as freeing up more land to build and cutting red tape on planning.”

New build dwelling starts in England were estimated at 39,510 in Q4 2019, a 2% increase compared to the previous three months and an 11% increase on a year earlier.

Completions were estimated at 46,000, a 2% increase from the previous quarter and 11% higher than a year ago.

Sarah Smith, partner in the planning team at property consultancy Rapleys, said: “Despite the 7% dip in new build starts in the year to September 2019, compared with the same period in 2018, completions have accelerated and the bigger picture is that housing delivery is moving in the right direction – but progress has only really been made in comparison with the development doldrums of the recession.

“Both starts and completions are still below average when considering housing delivery over the past half-century.

“The best rates of completion have been achieved when Local Authority completions are at their highest, and the challenge will be to increase Local Authority delivery whilst maintaining consistently high private sector delivery.

“Whilst there should be cautious optimism this needs to be tempered by the fact that housing is still in a state of recovery rather than rude health.

She added: “The industry is now eagerly awaiting the so-called Accelerated Planning white paper which has been mooted to potentially include some radical proposals.

“We await the full detail but, clearly, more needs to be done to streamline the process for housing delivery and to free up appropriate land for sustainable development, with the statistics showing that, when developers have permission in place, they are not sitting on their hands and holding back on getting spades in the ground.”