Volume housebuilder Beazer has dismissed a 15% dive in interim pre-tax profit as a blip caused by planning delays.

Beazer Group chief executive Dennis Webb said the company was hit by "considerable planning delays", which saw completions drop 13% to 3035 in the six months to 31 December 1998.

Pre-tax profit dipped from £31.4m to £26.6m in the same period, but turnover edged up 4% to £275.7m.

Beazer Homes, Beazer's largest division, was most affected by the delays.

Managing director John Low said: "We had a large number of sites coming through last autumn, half of which were held up.

"We are very frustrated. It was not on the game plan – we were held up by planning delays." Low said he expected Beazer to make good on the drop in the six months to June.

"The positive thing is that we have those sites coming through. We are through the blip now." Low said Beazer was finding it particularly difficult to get planning permission on brownfield sites, because of the large amount of council bureaucracy involved.

Beazer is pressing ahead with expansion plans, opening new offices in Leamington Spa, Preston and Nottingham, and expanding its Cardiff operation.

Beazer's smaller divisions, Charles Church and Partnership Homes, had a good year.

Luxury housebuilder Charles Church's average selling price rose 47% to £248 700, and social housing operator Partnership Homes' average price was up 7% to £45 500.

Low said visitor numbers to Beazer sites had picked up in January and February, and reservations were up 30% on 1998.

Beazer also revealed the news that Low, aged 54, will take over from Dennis Webb as group chief executive on 1 July.