Scottish housebuilders are pressing their government to produce housing statistics more quickly in the wake of the latest stats showing a 35 per cent fall in completion rates for 2020.

They are frustrated it has taken the government nearly a year to produce data for 2020 revealing there were just 14,834 new homes completions for 2020 – 7,839 fewer than in 2019.

Homes for Scotland’s chief executive Nicola Barclay said: “The numbers are, however, depressing – not only in terms of the scale of recovery that will be required to return to pre-Covid levels after all the positive progress of recent years but also in respect of the doubling of the time to publish this data, from six to 12 months.”

The trade body has contacted finance and economy secretary, Kate Forbes, ahead of her budget later this week stressing the importance of timely data for effective policy decision-making.

“It is only by regular, frequent monitoring of starts and completions that we can measure the success or otherwise of housing interventions,” said Ms Barclay.

Private housebuilders new starts down by 32 per cent

New starts for 2020 were down 27 per cent with 17,883 new homes – 6,680 less than in 2019 with private-led starts decreasing by 32 per cent.

Ms Barclay said it was extremely difficult for her trade body members to contact local planning authority staff working from home.

“Planning relies on collaboration and communication, and staff working from home must be available to execute their duties effectively. Our members are important delivery partners and customers of this service but their ability to progress is being hampered.

“If this does not quickly improve, the housing statistics will continue to paint a bleak picture that does not reflect the actual need and demand for more homes that exists across Scotland”.

Scottish annual planning performance statistics for 2020-21 showed a 17-week increase in average decision times for major housing development to 54 weeks.  This was a 40 per cent rise on the previous year and is more than three times the statutory requirement of 16 weeks.

Brokers Hank Zarihs Associates said smaller housebuilders needed planning applications to be dealt with promptly to secure property development funding and go ahead with projects.

In contrast to England, the Scottish government lock downed all building, unless it was connected to the emergency services, from March to June in 2020.

The National Federation of Builders said there was a risk Scotland would have suffered a swathe of older skilled tradespeople leaving the construction industry due to the lockdown. An estimated 100,000 construction workers were believed to have left the sector during the 2008 recession.

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