Monday 31 October 2016 1:00 am

No Brexit blues for upbeat housebuilders, despite concerns around skills shortages and costs of materials

Housebuilders are refusing to be knocked back by any Brexit blues, as the industry remains optimistic on what the future holds, research out today has found.

Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking found average five-year investment plans had increased by around 17 per cent over the last year, despite over a third (36 per cent) in the sector confessing the uncertainty following June's vote to leave the EU is their biggest business challenge at the moment.

On a scale out of 10, optimism in the industry now sits at 7.2, up from 7.1 last year, while over two-fifths (42 per cent) of those asked said their growth forecasts had improved since the referendum.

Departing the EU is not the only hurdle housebuilders need to clear. The industry is also hampered with rising costs of raw materials (cited by 35 per cent) and the current planning system (29 per cent).

Read more: London's property market will be the last to recover from Brexit

Meanwhile, nearly a third (30 per cent) said there was a lack of skilled workers in the industry, although this is an improvement on 2015, when 35 per cent of those surveyed had the same gripe. 

Even though the proportion of firms planning to create new jobs has slipped from 31 per cent last year to 25 per cent this year, the industry is still on track for adding over 70,000 roles over the next five years.

"Given the challenges that housebuilders face, the sector is painting a relatively optimistic picture, with improved growth and investment forecasts compared with last year's survey," said Pete Flockhart, head of housebuilders in commercial banking at Lloyds Bank. "The wider uncertainty, coupled with the rising cost of materials, presents some challenges but the industry is taking steps to tackle these issues head on, and still plans to grow."

Read more: It's cheaper to buy than rent in nearly two thirds of British cities

Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the Home Builders Federation, added:

The industry is pushing the skills agenda hard. If we are to build more high quality homes we simply have to increase industry capacity.

We are looking at how we build our individual sites more quickly; and the measures government could introduce to allow small builders to play their part in delivering more homes.

If we can continue to create an environment in which the industry can grow, as well as delivering desperately needed new homes, we can play a huge part in driving our economy forward.

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