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Planning permission in 2018 double that of 2008: HBF

Hosuebuilders applied for permission to build 370,000 new homes in 2018, according to the Home Builders Federation – double the number applied for a decade ago.

The body’s latest report also shows that housing stock is up 78 per cent over the last five years – with 220,000 homes added in 2018.

According to a survey conducted by the body, while volumes continue to grow, quality and satisfaction levels are on the rise.

The HBF adds that new homes and sales numbers are at a historic high. It goes on to say, however, that the second-hand market has slowed, and that consumer uncertainty poses a continuing threat.

It also warns that the transition from planning permission being granted to actually building a property is “still taking far too long” and professes a desire to work with the government to speed this process up.

The HBF executive chairman Stewart Baseley comments: “Today’s report shows that despite the wider political and economic uncertainties, builders are maintaining record levels of investment.

“The industry is investing massively in people and land to ensure it can meet the challenge set by government to deliver even more, high quality homes.

“Last year saw output continue to increase alongside improved customer satisfaction levels. Builders are acutely focused on delivering further improvements in quality and service levels alongside investing in more land to enable further increase in supply.”

Glenigan economics director Allan Wilen says: “The development pipeline remains strong, with the number of units securing approval last year close to the record level seen in 2017.

“The high level of approvals over the last two years reflects the sustained flow of projects with approval that are already under construction or progressing to site.”

In further news, the HIS Markit/CIPS UK construction PMI measure for April rose month-on-month, from 49.7 to 50.5, highlighting a rise in house building output.

The research also shows that input price inflation increased for the third consecutive month and rates charged by sub-contractors also rose.

However, Naismiths managing director Blane Perrotton has a word of warning. He comments: “While this slight uptick appears tantalisingly close to being a cause for celebration for the UK construction sector, nothing could be further from the truth.

“With no tangible end in sight to the farce that is the UK’s effort to leave the [EU trading] bloc, commercial developers are understandably more inclined to continue sitting on their hands rather than commit to larger projects that carry more risk.

“With stimulus from Help to Buy, low interest rates and a strong jobs market, house building has once again carried the industry through a tumultuous April. But even here new orders have plunged to worrying depths and are now at their lowest since March last year.

“Falling employment numbers also contribute to a bleak forecast, as EU citizens – who make up swathes of Britain’s construction workforces leave the UK for their home countries.

“Unless Britain can find the manpower needed to plug the emerging gap in the labour market, the construction industry could be in for a challenging few years.

“Sentiment may have risen slightly in April but, come Hallowe’en, the industry will in all likelihood be in the throes of Brexit jitters once again. At best 2019 is likely to prove another extremely volatile year for construction.”

BLP Insurance director Phil Harris is also cautious: “After bouncing back into expansion territory following a two-month period of contraction, it is time for the construction industry to collectively stop ‘kicking the can’ down the road.

“We have seen some positive, if tentative, signs of activity in the last few weeks. The fundamentals of the residential market remain strong.”

Harris adds that the built to rent market is buoyant, being “centred around a reliable business model, secure financing, and a willingness to push the envelope of innovation with its emphasis on offsite construction.”

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