Housebuilder Bellway this week announced a small drop in half-year pre-tax profit as it wrestled with planning problems on sites.

The firm made £21.2m before tax in the six months to 31 January 1999 compared with £22.8m in the same period in 1998.

Acting chairman Howard Dawe said: “Delays in the planning process resulted in the number of homes sold in the period being slightly less than in the comparable period last year.

“This is the result of the inadequacies of the planning system, both in respect of greenfield and brownfield sites, to process planning applications within a reasonable timescale. This resulted in 2007 homes being sold against 2092 [in 1997].” Bellway’s half-year turnover increased from £173m in the six months to January 1998 to £180m this year. This is because it has started to sell more expensive homes.

Its average selling price increased 9% to £89 100, from £81 900 for the comparable period last year.

Dawe said it had been particularly “gratifying” in recent months for Bellway to buy land in good selling locations and at attractive prices. The firm managed to do this when fears of recession were at their peak last autumn.

Looking forward, Dawe said: “It is becoming more apparent that the fears of a recession in the industry were unfounded. Lower interest rates have improved affordability and there is a healthy demand for our products.”