Persimmon has said it will start work on 50 sites by the end of 2009 in a cautiously optimistic trading update this week

In the six months to 30 June it completed 4,006 units (2008: 5,501) and turnover was £625m (£998m).

It said volume and turnover figures were showing “increasing improvement” compared with the lows in the first half of 2008, which were about a third down on 2007.

It also reduced its debt level from £906 in June last year to £495m this year and said it remains on track to hit its £450m target by December.

The statement added: “We remain cautious until mortgage availability improves further and employment prospects stabilise.”