Is brick shortage or brick policy holding back Uk homebuilding?

There are more than sufficient stocks of bricks to meet most needs. But this does not stop ill-informed comment by journalists, researchers or politicians who say there is a shortage.

In 2014, the BMF became aware of reports about brick availability in some parts of the country. The situation has greatly improved since then. Manufacturers re-opened factories they closed when the Credit Crunch struck in 2008 and they are re-firing their kilns. Output is up considerably to meet demand from increased activity in the new-build and home improvement markets.  

Any delays, however localised or temporary, ought to be readily overcome because merchants have long-standing expertise in managing the delivery of bricks & other materials onsite. Our members represent the biggest distribution channel for bricks in the country, accounting for over 75% of the total UK market. Official figures show that stocks were around 40% higher in 2016 than before.  

Another aspect of brick policy we encounter are complaints about pre-commencement planning conditions set by local authorities over the type of brick to be used in building. More than 1,000 brick types are made in the UK. They vary depending on design, fashion or location. Bricks are sometimes not immediately available without a few months’ wait for them to be made. Some planning officers insist on exact matches (regardless of availability) despite acceptable alternatives being in stock.  

Hold-ups by local authorities in granting planning permission only add to delays in completing properly-considered, small-scale housing projects. When we lobby parliaments or governments, we urge them that any steps taken to speed up the ratification of brick choices will help to ease cash flow, timescales and costs for small builders - especially for home extensions & conversions.  

Our ask of government is for builders, developers or planners to talk to merchants who can source bricks for new build or find a suitable match for existing brickwork. Many SMEs find the brick-matching service by merchants as invaluable in obtaining the right type of brick for their project.