Housing minister bricking it

Visiting the brand new Chesterton brick factory in Newcastle-under-Lyme, which has created 51 jobs, Hopkins said the impact of the scheme was keeping kilns firing over Christmas for the first time since 2007.

The brick industry is ramping up production after several slow years since the crash in 2008, largely because of the rapid increase in construction that housebuilders say is the result of the government’s Help to Buy.

Brick makers are staying open over the Christmas period, when they usually close, to catch up with demand. Brick production in 2013 is expected to be around 1.73 billion bricks, enough to go 9 times round the earth or build 28 St Pancras stations.

By the end of July deliveries of new bricks were up 12% on the previous year. This was despite a 12% fall in the year to March after 3 months of cold weather slowed production to a trickle.

Eight out of 10 bricks manufactured in the UK are for housebuilding, so brick production is a good barometer for the housing market and economy as a whole.

The boom for brick makers is being replicated across the industry, with orders for all construction materials now growing at the fastest rate for 10 years.

The factory in Chesterton is owned and run by Ibstock Brick, the UK’s largest brick maker with 20 factories across the country. The extra demand has also prompted Ibstock to reopen a mothballed factory in Leicester that closed in 2008.

Hopkins met local workers as well as the site manager of the factory to hear how they have risen to the challenge of renewed demand in the housing market to get Britain building again.

Hopkins said: “Help to Buy has not only helped thousands of hard working families get on the housing ladder, it’s also laid the foundations for a recovery in housebuilding, and confounded the critics who claimed it would have no impact on the supply of new homes.

“I’m delighted to be in Newcastle-under-Lyme today to see how this is delivering a boost for brick makers.

“Enough bricks will be made in 2013 to go 9 times round the earth or build 28 St Pancras stations, and I’m hoping next year we’ll make enough to reach the moon.

“It’s been great to see Ibstock’s state-of-the-art factory and meet with workers who are ramping up production and, for the first time in years, keeping the factory running over the Christmas period to catch up with orders and help get Britain building again.”

Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the Home Buiders Federation, said: “Help to Buy is driving a big increase in house building activity. If people can buy, builders will build. “Existing sites are being built out quicker and developers are looking to start on new ones sooner.

“As a result there is an increased demand for labour and materials and we are seeing the supply chain respond.

“The increase in house building activity is creating jobs both directly on site and indirectly in the supply chain.”