Bryant blames planners for high land prices

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BRYANT, the housebuilder, has attacked planners who it claims are restricting the supply of land, driving up its price and squeezing the industry's margins.

Andrew Mackenzie, chief executive, said: 'The planning system, particularly in the South-east, is consistently failing to provide an adequate supply for market needs.

'As a result, it is likely that the difficult land market we have seen this year will continue.'

The stock market has been worried about the impact of rising land prices and static house prices on margins.

Bryant yesterday announced a 99 per cent increase in pre-tax profits for the year to May, but in line with many of its peers its shares have fallen sharply. From a peak of 194p in February, they have slipped more than 30 per cent to 133p.

Bryant's profits almost doubled from pounds 18.3m to pounds 36.5m, with its Homes division contributing 90 per cent. Earnings per share rose from 4.9p to 8.9p and a final dividend of 3.6p (3.4p) made a full-year total of 5p (4.8p).

Higher reservations meant that the Homes division completed 3,225 sales, a 15 per cent increase on last year. Bryant Country Homes, the new luxury division, which sells houses for more than pounds 300,000 each, had its first completions.

The average selling price moved ahead from pounds 83,000 to pounds 95,000 but that disguised a flat underlying market. Bryant has been moving towards selling more detached houses and offering fewer to first- time buyers.

The company ended the year with 9,800 plots in its land bank. Mr MacKenzie said Bryant's long land bank had enabled it to maintain a policy of buying only in good locations and at sensible margins.

In the small property division a pounds 2m provision in the first half resulted in a pounds 1.8m loss compared with a loss of pounds 700,000 in 1993. Contracting, which had avoided the rest of industry's propensity to tender below cost, produced a pounds 5.6m profit.