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Conservative MPs' plans for builders to compete with housing associations for Government grants were slammed as unworkable at the conference by a leading house builder.Alan Cherry, chairman of Countryside Properties and a former president of the House Builders Federation, said more homes would be provided at a lower cost by housing associations and builders continuing to work in partnership, using their 'complementary skills'.And he warned that grants-to-builders 'will not work ... the current system should be maintained'.Grants-to-builders is not yet government policy, but has been promoted by influential Tory backbenchers.They had expected support from builders, but most either object in principle, or do not want to offend their housing association clients by appearing to want to compete with them for money.The idea is based on the Gro-Grants scheme, used by Scottish Homes to promote private building in areas which otherwise consist only of council estates.Scottish Homes chief executive, Peter McKinlay, said this year £30 million of Gro-Grants would provide 2,200 new homes. He said: 'Grants to developers can work. Gro-Grants are enabling developers to create home ownership markets in areas for the very first time and where they would not otherwise have operated.'But Mr Cherry warned: 'Irrespective of whether a workable form of grant can be formulated, there are two circumstances in which I could not support the principle: if it would involve house builders in competition with housing associations for grants from the same 'pot'; or if housing association grants were reduced to fund a separate grant.'He said builders wanted to build homes then sell them as fast as possible.They would not want to own homes indefinitely, and so have to concern themselves with investment finance, management of tenants and cumbersome accountability procedures for public money. CONSTRUCTION NEWS

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