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Berkeley chairman and FMB say housing must be a national priority

Berkeley chairman Tony Pidgley and Federation of Master Builders chief executive Brian Berry have called for housing to become a national priority, the day after Mark Prisk was appointed to as new housing minister.

In an interim management statement which covers the period from 1 May 2012 to 31 August 2012, Mr Pidgley said housing must become a nationa priority which requires the presumption in favour of sustainable development within the NPPF to be enforced.

Mr Pidgley said: “Housing can also be part of the economic recovery as every home built by Berkeley creates some 3.5 jobs alongside the associated benefits of affordable housing, infrastructure improvements, creating fantastic new homes and vibrant places.

“The government has a vital role to play in stimulating investment by creating a stable, consistent and transparent platform to allow housing to be developed, however the changes in planning and the consultation on the taxation of residential properties have introduced uncertainties for businesses such as Berkeley.”

He added: “Consequently, this is expected to lead to lower levels of investment in housebuilding generally. This means for Berkeley that we will maintain a strong and flexible balance sheet while investing more selectively in land and construction and therefore expect to be cash generative in the first half.

FMB chief executive Brian Berry said: “If we are to stand any chance of addressing the nation’s chronic housing shortage we have to remove the barriers that are currently preventing small and medium sized house builders from delivering badly needed new housing.

“When the industry last delivered housing in the kinds of numbers we need now, SMEs were delivering around two thirds of it. Now we are building half of what we require, and we are reliant on just nine house builders to deliver 45 per cent of our housing following a 69 per cent decline in the number of SME house builders.

“SMEs can go a long way to solving the housing crisis because they typically bring forward small urban infill sites that would otherwise be ignored, and by doing so take pressure off green belt land.”

Berkeley has acquired three sites since the beginning of the year, predominantly on deferred terms, in Wapping, Hammersmith and Chiswick, and said it is on target to achieve its aim of growing the value of the potential gross margin in its land holdings to £3 billion by April 2014.

Mr Pidgley said market conditions continue to remain resilient with London benefitting from its “world class status which has been enhanced by the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics”.

He added that limited supply of quality new housing, particularly in the best locations in London and the South East, continues to provide strong support for house prices despite the underlying economic conditions and lack of feelgood factor.

Victoria Mitchell, the non-executive deputy chairman steps down from the board today after ten years.

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