Lunchtime news Monday 30 June 2023

The number of new mortgages approved for house purchases in Britain has fallen for another month. The figures from the Bank of England shows that 42,000 homes were approved in May, a 28 per cent fall from the previous month, and down 64 per cent from a year ago. These are the lowest figures since the Bank began reporting them in 1993.

Meanwhile the Land Registry released its house price figures for May, which showed that prices in England and Wales were unchanged in May and up 1.8 per cent over the year, although sales volumes during March were half the number of a year ago. The figures are made up of completed property sales from all lenders.

And Hometrack has also released its house price index for May in England and Wales. Its figures reveal a one per cent drop in June, which was twice as fast as in May. Prices have dropped 2.5 per cent since the beginning of 2015, (wiping off around £4,250 from the value of the average home) and are down 3.2 per cent on a year ago. The length of time taken to sell a home has also increased from six weeks to 10.3 weeks.

And the bad news continues as consumer confidence has taken a battering by the credit crisis. A monthly poll shows that householders’ confidence about future economic prospects has sunk to its lowest level since 1982 and confidence in current economic conditions are at their lowest since 1992, the end of the last recession.

Building societies are planning a mass defection from the Council of Mortgage Lenders umbrella after concerns that their voices are not being heard over those of the banks. Building societies, which account for 25 per cent of Britain’s home loans, are preparing to shift their mortgage representation to the Building Societies Association.

The campaign against the 15 sites earmarked for eco-towns continues today as protestors gather outside parliament for Caroline Flint’s expected announcement of the second round of public consultation, which is expected to include a series of roadshows around the shortlisted sites. Campaigners are calling on ministers to go back to the drawing board, saying eco-towns are the ‘least sustainable way of developing housing’ and other plans should be examined. According to the Times, some ministers are having reservations as their own advisers have said most of the proposed locations do not meet environmental standards, and along with the crisis in the housebuilding industry, there are fears that the market is not strong enough for the number of new homes. Ministers are saying it is quality not the number of new developments that is most important.

But Sunday Telegraph believes that the government will raise millions of pounds from eco-towns as six out of the 15 shortlisted sites are on property owned by the Ministry of Defence. The newspaper reported that the Treasury stands to make around £275 million through land sales, and the ‘clawback’ provision which gives the MoD between 30 and 50 per cent of an increase in the land’s value.

However despite the often high-profile and widespread opposition, a recent poll found supporters of eco-towns outnumber opponents by five to one.

And finally, squatters have taken over the house that Ratty’s home in Wind in the Willows was based on. Left to the National Trust in the 1930s the house has stood empty of tenants since 2013. In April the squatters moved in saying they have taken ‘direct action in protest at the National Trust’s neglect’.