The NHBC attributed the decrease to reduced public sector housing registrations – down about 10,000 compared to 2011. Private housebuilding was stable at 78,120 registrations (2011: 78,250).

“In summary, 2012 was a challenging year for the housebuilding industry overall but ended on an encouraging note with Q4 figures 17% up on the same period for 2011,” said NHBC commercial director Richard Tamayo.

“With government-backed schemes such as NewBuy and Funding for Lending helping to increase mortgage availability, there are reasons to believe that 2013 may see the industry able to build on some of the positive momentum we saw towards the end of 2012, which does seem to be carrying over into January.”

But he admitted housebuilding volumes were desperately below the numbers required and the issue needed to remain at the heart of government policy.