Home-building in Barrow increased last year despite restrictions brought in during the coronavirus pandemic, figures suggest.

The town bucked a national trend which saw a fall in new home builds, with housing charity Shelter fearing the country is facing a worsening housing crisis.

In Barrow, work started on about 80 new homes between January and September last year, according to data from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

That was up by 14 per cent compared to the same period in 2019, when there were roughly 70 new home builds.

Between July and September, as the coronavirus pandemic eased, work started on about 30 homes – the same level as between April and June, when the country was plunged into lockdown.

However, the MHCLG cautioned that quarterly figures for local authority areas are “volatile."

Shelter chief executive Polly Neate says she fears a worsening housing crisis, and has called on the Government to invest in more social housing.

She said: “It’s good developers have found ways to start building homes again while the pandemic continues, but compared to a year ago, housebuilding starts are down, so it’s not quite back to normal.”

She added: “We already have a dire shortage of genuinely affordable homes, and we cannot risk that getting worse.

“The problem isn’t just the pandemic, it’s the economy.

“If it continues to shrink, the housing market will stall, and we will have an even bigger housing crisis in our hands.”

Across England, work started on 91,000 new homes in the first nine months of last year, a 26 per cent fall from the same period in 2019.

Between July and September there were 40,000 new house builds, up from 18,000 between April and June.

The Home Builders Federation says the increase was buoyed by the lifting of house selling restrictions in May.

Steve Turner, spokesman for the HBF, said: "Since the restriction on house sales was lifted we have seen very high levels of demand for new homes.

“Construction has continued apace to meet this demand but inevitably delays have occurred as a result of staff absences and supply chain blocks.”

Mr Turner said the industry was “still some way” off the Government’s target to increase housebuilding to 300,000 a year by the mid-2020s.

A spokesperson for the MHCLG said: “We delivered 244,000 homes in 2019/20 – the highest in over 30 years – and doubled the number of homes started in the last quarter compared to the one before.

“During the pandemic we have taken decisive action to support the industry, allowing construction sites to operate and reopening the housing market safely.

“We are delivering the new homes the country needs through our £12bn Affordable Homes Programmes and wholesale reform of the planning system."