The largest manufacturer of specialist bricks, Michelmersh have announced that there has been a fall in commercial activity due to a reducing demand for bricks.
Chief Executive of Michelmersh, Martin Warner blames delays caused by planning for lower brick sales, saying that the general election in May and subsequent stamp duty increases for expensive homes has held up many projects and hampered production within the sector.
Martin said “Construction is down. We have seen it over the summer. If you talk to developers, one of the biggest problems is planning. The planning process is getting worse and worse rather than better.”
The last couple of years have seen several contributing factors that have had an impact on the brick industry as a whole; severe brick shortages, an increasing skills gap and a boom in house building resulted in stockpiling by many building firms in order to complete their projects.
Whilst the materials shortage and lack of skilled workers has played its part in slowing or stopping government housebuilding proposals, Martin says that he feels that planning is now a far greater issue.
The Conservatives have promised to loosen planning requirements in the near future in a bid to meet a housing target that aims to deliver 200,000 first time buyer houses for sale each year. Last month’s party conference saw PM David Cameron pledge to scrap rules which require developers to build affordable homes for rent.
Warner mentioned that although the cost of bricks has risen, they are still reasonably priced and the price hike should not prove to be an issue for building firms. He said “We price ahead of the game and bricks are still very cheap in the grand scheme of things. The average price of a brick is 32p which is less than the price of a Mars bar.”