UK housing starts hit 11-year high, boosted by London jump

FILE PHOTO: A construction worker casts a shadow as he works on a Taylor Wimpey housing estate in Aylesbury, Britain, February 7, 2017. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

LONDON (Reuters) - British builders are planning to construct the biggest number of homes in 11 years, boosted by a bounce-back in London, an industry body said on Thursday.

Builders registered 43,578 new homes for construction between July and September, up 15 percent on the same period in 2017 and the biggest number since the third quarter of 2007, the National House-Building Council said.

An increase of 141 percent for registrations in London was boosted by a number of large-scale developments and compared with unusually low figures a year earlier.

London, once the driver of home-building in Britain, has seen house prices fall as Brexit raises concerns about its financial sector and its appeal to foreign investors.

Higher purchase taxes on homes costing over 1 million pounds have also slowed the market in the capital.

“On a broader front, the industry remains cautious in the short-run until the economic impact of Brexit is clearer,” NHBC Chief Executive Steve Wood said.

Hitting the government’s target of 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s would require innovation in new construction methods and an answer to skills shortages, he said.

Shortages of European construction workers have pushed up pay for builders in London and many companies are concerned that they will struggle to find staff once Britain leaves the EU.

Reporting by William Schomberg, editing by David Milliken