Brickgate: A war is kicking off in the construction industry after estate agents claimed there is a shortage of bricks

Emma Haslett
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Construction In London
Oh do be a brick: Estate agents are at war with brick makers (Source: Getty)

Forget Jeremy Corbyn versus Owen Smith - there's a new feud in town. You might say relations between these two are rather stony...

Brick makers have taken issue with research put out earlier today by the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr), which suggested not only that 1.4bn bricks are needed to fix the housing shortage - but construction companies are facing long waits for bricks thanks to a lack of supply.

Read more: Brexit fears and a recruitment crisis have pushed construction wages up

The research, which we wrote about here, also suggested with 85 per cent of all imported clay and cement coming from the EU, Brexit might make the shortage worse.

How brick makers reacted

Brick makers were stony-faced about the affair. The Brick Development Association, which represents brick manufacturers in the UK, called the report "out of date and unhelpful".

"The report... is based on data from April 2015. This is 15 months out of date. It is misleading and damaging for the brick and construction industry," said Andrew Eagles, the organisation's chief executive.

“The challenges the brick industry faced in 2014 when there was a dramatic increase in housebuilding are now behind us and the industry is confident it can meet the growing demand for its products in housing and other construction projects.”

"Indeed, in the second quarter of 2016, deliveries have been 10.4 per cent higher than in the first quarter. The deliveries in June are also 7.4 per cent higher than the figure predicted in May. These changes are significant and point to the increased demand for bricks in the housing market, and other sectors."

Estate agents hit back

But the NAEA wasn't going to take such accusations lying (brick-laying?) down.

"Our Bricks Report looks at the housing deficit in relation to aspirations for home ownership. At the moment, supply and demand is severely off kilter, and to ‘fix’ this, we would need an additional 264,000 houses," hit back Mark Hayward, the NAEA's managing director.

"The number of bricks needed to build these houses is 1.4bn, as calculated by Cebr. We commissioned this report because it is clear that there is a serious shortage of appropriate housing in this country and many first time buyers are unable to enter the market. Highlighting the number of bricks needed to fix the market is a way of illustrating the extent of the problem in the long term to decision makers and the industry.”

And even Cebr waded in, with this rather bizarre statement: "It is outside of Cebr’s control how media outlets choose to report on its research and as such we cannot be held responsible for the negative tone which some publications utilised in their description of the brick manufacturing industry.

"With that said, Cebr stands behind the Bricks Campaign report and its findings," it added

"The report looks at the building shortfall (the difference between the increase in households and dwelling stock) that has accumulated over the past decade and estimates the number of bricks that are needed to rectify this shortage at 1.4 billion bricks. Based on the July 2016 Construction building materials report from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial strategy the stock of bricks stands at 628m."

Now, now, everyone. Play nice. No one wants a brick through their window...

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