Bob Weston predicts steep fall in output over the next 12 months

The operating environment for housebuilders is currently as challenging as its ever been and will prompt UK housing output to drop around 40% in the year ahead, according to the founder of Essex-based builder Weston Homes.

Bob Weston, who last week launched a new offsite panellised housebuilding business, British Offsite, to supply both Weston and the wider industry, said the conditions were caused by a combination of the market and “the most anti-housebuilding government we’ve ever had”.


Bob Weston is chairman and MD of Weston Homes

Weston’s comments come after the UK’s largest housebuilder Barratt last week said its output was likely to fall up to 23% in the next year, and follows similar criticisms of the government by the likes of former Redrow boss Steve Morgan and Churchill chief executive Spencer McCarthy.

Bob Weston said: “Housing output across the UK, I think for the next twelve months will fall 40%. That’s my thought process. We will fight our competitors to get as big a part of the market as possible. But national output is going to fall.

“The market is more challenging now than it’s ever been because of the shock wave of the interest rates continuing to rise. Most people were told that 4% would have been it, maybe four and a quarter, now people are being told about 6%. And that is spooking people. This is extremely challenging, there’s no way of ducking out of it.

“We’ve got the most anti-housebuilding government we’ve ever had. They’re chasing the nimby vote.

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“We have five major schemes that all should have had work starting over a year ago and are all stuck in planning. And they’re not stuck in planning because of the local planning – it’s DLUHC [Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities]. Whether it’s Highways Agency, nutrient neutrality, Historic England – it’s not the local authorities causing the biggest issues.”

Weston added that £240m-turnover Weston Homes had, unusually, started briefing representatives from Labour and the Liberal Democrats as well as from the governing Conservative Party on the state of affairs in the industry, because of the feeling that the Conservatives had stopped listening to the sector. He said: “They’re not hearing, they don’t want to hear. They’ve chosen a path. Yes they will make a headline about 300,000 homes a year, but that’s not what’s happening in reality. Everything’s dead opposite.”

Weston’s forecast of a 40% drop in output come after the ONS has already reported a 5.4% drop in housebuilding output in the first quarter of 2023, while the NHBC has said that UK private sector starts on site fell back by 49% in the first three months compared to the same period in 2022. The Construction Products Association has forecast a 20% slump in output for the year as a whole, but that forecast came prior to the latest sharp rises in interest rates.