Fewer new houses were started in Torridge last year, new figures show.

Across England, the housebuilding sector has seen a slowdown – with an industry body accusing the Government of "putting short-term politics over the needs of the country" when it comes to building new homes.

Figures from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities show building commenced on around 380 homes in Torridge in 2023 – down from an estimated 530 the year before.

The local authority did not provide complete figures for every month, meaning figures for some periods may have been estimated.

Across England, construction began on 149,000 new homes last year, down from 176,000 in 2022 and 178,000 in 2021.

The second quarter of 2023 saw a jump in new building starts, as developers rushed to beat new environmental regulations introduced last June.

Between April and June, 72,000 new homes were started, about 140 of which were in Torridge.

But this spike was undone in the second half of the year – July to December saw the smallest number of starts since 2008. Ground was broken for 38,000 new homes, with 140 of them in Torridge.

Steve Turner, executive director at the Home Builders Federation, blamed the Government's "weakening of the planning system, removal of housing targets and lack of support for buyers" for holding up construction of new homes.

He said: "Despite the acute housing crisis we face, all indicators show further declines in supply ahead – frustrating the housing aspirations of the younger generation and costing thousands of construction workers’ jobs.

"Putting short-term politics over the needs of the country will have long-term consequences for the economy and society, and must be addressed."

The Conservative party promised 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s in its 2019 manifesto – but there was an 11% drop in the number of houses completed in 2023, with 158,000 last year.

Despite this, around 340 homes were completed in Torridge last year, a rise from 220 the year before.

The Social Market Foundation think tank warned the last time England was hitting this target was in the 1960s.

James Gollings, deputy research director, said: "If we want to get back to 300,000 a year, public sector building clearly needs to play a much bigger role, especially with private sector construction slipping in the last couple of years."

The organisation added while planning reform is regularly touted as a solution to problems with housing supply, reforms are often "watered down", reducing their impact on housebuilding levels.

A spokesperson for the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said housebuilding is a "priority" for the Government.

They said: "We are on track to meet our commitment to deliver 1 million homes over this Parliament, and are taking significant steps to increase housing delivery through our long-term plan for housing."

"We’ve invested billions in housing to bring forward land for development, enabling the market to deliver the homes and infrastructure that communities need whilst also supporting local authority planning capacity," they added.