LONDON Feb 25 British banks approved more mortgages in January than in any month since September 2007, just after the start of the financial crisis, data showed on Friday, fuelling concern that the housing market may be overheating.
Mortgages for homes purchases rose to 49,972 in January, the highest level since September 2007, from 47,086 in December, the British Bankers' Association said.
BBA data does not include lending by building societies, which are included in Bank of England data released the following week.
"Following on from last month, mortgage borrowing continues to rise compared to a year earlier as mortgage assistance schemes help first time buyers and housing chains more generally," BBA Director of Statistics David Dooks said about the data.
The data showed the number of mortgages rose 57 percent from a year ago, although they remained below levels of more than 70,000 seen in late 2006, before the financial crisis.
Net mortgage lending rose 398 million pounds ($662 million) in January, compared with 389 million in December.
Concern about the strength of the housing market prompted the Bank of England and the government to say in November that it would stop encouraging banks to lend to home-buyers under their Funding for Lending Scheme. But the government's Help to Buy scheme remains in place to guarantee low-deposit mortgages.
The pick-up in the housing market has accompanied a rapid rebound in Britain's economy last year - one of the fastest among industrialised nations.
BoE officials have stressed that if the property market needs to be reined in, they range of tools other than interest rates.
* For a table of the data, see ($1 = 0.6013 British pounds) (Reporting by Andy Bruce)