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British developer Countryside flags strong trading in property sector

[LONDON] Countryside Properties said trading in Britain's housing market was robust, with strong customer demand, favourable mortgage lending conditions and "good political support".

Countryside, which regenerates public land and builds houses on its own plots, said trading was aided by low interest rates and increased demand from first-time buyers supported by the government's Help to Buy scheme.

"With strong political support for more housing across all forms of ownership and moderate build cost inflation, we look forward with confidence to delivering our growth plans in 2018 and the medium term," Countryside said.

Countryside, which focuses on urban regeneration of public sector land for private homes, said completions were up 28 per cent to 3,389 units for the year ended Sept 30.

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The group's private forward order book jumped 8 per cent to 242.4 million pounds.

The developer's comments are in contrast to peers who have flagged weakness in the sector.

With concerns over Brexit weighing and the Bank of England this month raising interest rates for the first time in a decade, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said house prices in Britain were no longer rising. In London, they are falling at the fastest pace since 2009, it added.

UK housebuilder Crest Nicholson pointed to Brexit-related barriers to new house construction last week while the country's largest housebuilder, Barratt Developments Plc, also flagged an industry-wide skills challenge.

Persimmon also issued a disappointing trading statement, pointing to a stalling rate of sales for its new homes.

The decline comes a year after these firms showed signs of stability returning to the UK housing market after a Brexit dip.

The UK housing industry has said it needs to build around 250,000 properties a year just to meet pent-up demand, which has pushed up prices and rents, stopping younger people from getting onto the property ladder. However, this target is routinely missed.

Britain's finance minister, Philip Hammond, will use the budget later in the day to announce plans to build 300,000 homes every year, according to the Sunday Times and the BBC.