Boost for housing sector

House-builders are taking heart from the rising house prices and stepping up their activity. In the three months from June to August, 48,000 dwellings were started an increase of 8 per cent on the same three months a year ago, while in the month of August 14,900 dwellings were started, an increase of 22 per cent on August last year, and 13,000 were completed, 25 per cent more than a year ago.

House prices are now rising by anything from 6.9 per cent a year according to the Halifax up to 12.9 per cent a year according to Nationwide. New house prices are also beginning to rise. Galliford the Lincolnshire based housebuilders and specialised construction company said yesterday it has raised prices by 5 per cent in three stages in the year to the end of June and another 1.5 per cent in July, and expects similar increases over the next year.

Profit doubled to pounds 2.24m in the year to the end of June in spite of a pounds 660,000 hit on the last of its discontinued businesses, house completions were up 15 per cent and housebuilding profits rose 38 per cent to pounds 1.77m. It almost achieved its target of a 10 per cent profit on turnover in the housebuilding division, the chairman, Richard Miles, said yesterday.

The group expects to spend pounds 500,000 on improving its IT investment in the current year in an attempt to win more construction and maintenance contracts. It has also invested pounds 200,000 in a 25 per cent stake in the proposed Rapid Transit System for Northampton. It hopes to install a network of low-pollution gas-driven buses running in specially built concrete channels and served by park-and-ride terminals on the town's outskirts.

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