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Crest Nicholson warns on skills shortage

16 Sep 14 A shortage of skilled labour and bottlenecks in the planning system are the only constraints to an otherwise buoyant house-building market, according to Crest Nicholson.

In a trading update, the board said: “Prospects for the continuation of a strong and sustainable housing market are generally favourable.”

It continued: “Whilst there has been a slight moderation of sales rates in the last few months, rates of sale remain significantly above historic norms. Production capacity, clearance of planning conditions and skills availability remain the critical constraints on volume delivery.”

Expansion of operations has seen Crest Nicholson acquire new sites, bring forward sites from its land bank and prepare the launch of a new division. So far this year, it has acquired 17 new sites and 1,779, along with a further five sites and 885 plots that have been converted from the strategic land bank. These acquisitions and conversions have contributed to a 21% increase in the gross development value of the group's short-term pipeline to £4,690m (2013: £3,886m). 

Sites have been acquired in Marlow, Cambridge and Cheltenham as well as in Putney and Borough in London.

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The new Chiltern division, based in St Albans, is on track to open for business in November 2014.

The company said that although sales had slowed a little over the summer months, they remained “significantly above historic norms”. Results for the year were likely to be 15% up on last year.

“In line with normal seasonal trends, the sales environment has shown a moderate slowing in recent months. This compares with the very high levels of sales that were experienced in the immediate aftermath of the launch of Help to Buy in the spring of 2013,” the company said.

The results for the full financial year ending 31st October 2014 are expected to be announced in late January 2015.

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