Countryside Properties will this year cut its development programme in half in the North, according to chairman Alan Cherry, writes Joey Gardiner.

Cherry said starts across the whole country for the group would drop by up to 1,000 in 2007/08 to about 2,000 homes, as the fall-out from the credit crunch continues.

The news about Countryside came as rival regeneration specialist Berkeley Homes said it was reviewing its developments to see if they were still viable in the current market.

Cherry said: “We’ve decided to delay starts on some projects until there’s more confidence in the market. On others, where we are finishing current stages, we’re not starting the next one. We’ve also withdrawn from some land purchases or are rearranging the terms.

“Our likely starts will be about 30% down next year – I suspect in the North output will be down by more like 50%.”

Cherry added that Countryside, which is planning to cut its workforce by 10%, said in previous recessions the housebuilding industry went “gaily ahead knowing damn well homes would be difficult to sell”.

We have decided to delay starts on some projects until there is more confidence in the market.On others we’re not starting the next stage

Alan Cherry, countryside properties

One of the Countryside schemes that is under review is the proposed 605-flat Linen buildings development in Preston, Lancashire.

Meanwhile, Karl Whiteman, Berkeley Homes’ managing director, said the firm was “revisiting” its sites to see whether their current planning permissions were still deliverable in the current market.

Key schemes affected by the review include the regeneration of the Kidbrooke estate and the Royal Arsenal scheme in Greenwich, south-east London, and the Potters Fields development in Southwark, central London.

Whiteman said the firm was assessing the mix and type of development, as well as discussing with the local planning authorities whether obligations to deliver community benefits were still practicable.

He said: “We’re working constructively with local authorities to ensure we can still deliver schemes with some of the social, environmental and other benefits such as affordable or family housing.”