Growth among private housebuilders is slowing – and the uncertainty of the upcoming EU referendum is partly to blame, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has warned.

In Q1 of this year, workloads in the private housing sector rose at their slowest rate since 2013, a RICS report released today shows.

The proportion of firms reporting a rise in growth in Q1 outweighed those reporting a fall by just 36%. This time last year, the difference was 50%.

The slow growth reflects a general lack of confidence within the construction sector.

The number of industry professionals expecting workloads to rise over the next 12 months outweighs those expecting a fall by 55%, compared to nearly 80% at this time last year.

Delays in the planning process are one of the “biggest barriers” to growth, and councils should create teams of emergency planners to “parachute” into boroughs that have the longest waits, RICS chief economist Simon Rubinsohn said.

EU referendum making investors wary

The EU referendum is also impacting the market, he said.

“A range of sectors have been affected by these issues as investors look to delay any decisions until a final outcome has been determined. Construction is no exception.”

The slow growth comes despite the government’s “significant commitment” to the sector, Rubinsohn said – although he added that politicians’ narrow focus on creating starter homes is not helping.

“We have long held the view that starter homes cannot be the only solution,” he said.

“There is an issue around the availability of land on which new houses can be built, and we would like to see more being done to free up private brownfield sites.”