House building data: notes and definitions (includes P2 full guidance notes and returns form)

Guidance for local authorities compiling quarterly information about new permanent dwellings, which is used for house building quarterly returns.


This guidance is to be read in conjunction with the collection on house building, which includes the latest statistical releases and sets of live tables.

House building terms

The tables relate to new permanent dwellings only. House building figures relate to actual building for the quarter of dwelling units and are subject to revision for late returns. For definition of a dwelling, type of dwelling, tenure and general definition of a household see Definitions of general housing terms.

Construction ‘started’

A house or flat is counted as started on the date work begins on the laying of the foundation, including ‘slabbing’ for houses that require it, but not including site preparation. Thus when foundation work commences on a pair of semi-detached houses 2 houses are counted as started, and when work begins on a block of flats all the dwellings in that block are counted as started. The starts of houses in building schemes are usually phased over a period of weeks or even, in very large schemes, months.

The figures shown for starts are derived from records kept for building control purposes. It is sometimes difficult for data providers to identify whether a dwelling is being built for a Registered Social Landlord or for a private developer. This is because sometimes the builders themselves are not sure of the precise ownership or the ownership may keep evolving and it is not final until it was sold. This may lead to an understatement of Registered Social Landlord starts and completions recorded in these tables, and a corresponding overstatement of private enterprise figures. The problem is more likely to occur with starts than completions.

Construction ‘completed’

In principle, a dwelling is regarded as completed when it becomes ready for occupation or when a completion certificate is issued whether it is in fact occupied or not. In practice, there are instances where the timing could be delayed and some completions are missed for example as no completion certificate was requested by the owner.

P2 guidance notes

Guidance notes on the completion of the P2 (quarterly) - house building (quarterly)

About the return

The purpose of this return is to collect quarterly information about the new dwellings that you inspect for building control reasons. This is used to provide estimates of all new house building activity in your local authority area after it is combined with parallel data from the National House Builders Council (NHBC).

Figures for your authority are added to others to give regional and national house building figures. This is key information for the government and the media on economic conditions generally, for the construction industry and about the housing market. Up-to-date national figures are released through a quarterly statistical release.

Points to note when completing the return are:

  • all fields must be completed
  • where an entry is unknown or unavailable, # should be entered
  • please give estimates if you are unable to fill in a box with an exact figure
  • where an entry is zero, 0 should be entered
  • when asked to provide an explanation, please use the Notes box
  • include new house building activity inspected under your building control duties
  • exclude NHBC inspected new house building activity, all conversions and improvements.

Deadline for submission

Completed returns should be submitted on Interform within 2 weeks. Please take a printout or copy of the return for future reference.

Further assistance and support

If you have any problems providing the data required in the return and your local authority is in:

P2 return: column by column guidance

Dwellings started during the quarter

A dwelling is a self-contained unit with a lockable front door, which has its own bathroom and kitchen. A permanent has a design life of over 60 years. Dwellings should be reported as ‘started’ when the foundations are laid (or slabbing, if applicable). All dwellings in a block of flats should be shown as started when the work on the foundations of the block has begun.

Dwellings completed during the quarter

Dwellings should be reported as completed when they become ready for occupation. For local authority dwellings this will normally be taken to be the quarter in which keys are handed over to the clerk of works. For other dwellings this will be the quarter in which notice of completion or occupation is given, whichever is the earlier. If full information is not available for all dwellings please provide estimates.

Column 1 (Private Enterprise dwellings)

Include all new dwellings financed and built by private developers in the local authority area. This includes any such dwellings built on local authority land, but not dwellings built on behalf of Registered Social Landlords. Include here all dwellings for which the tenure is not known. This might include dwellings started by a private builder under a Section 106 agreement, where as yet no registered social landlord has been found for the social housing component.

Include all new dwellings provided for statutory purposes other than under the Housing Act 1985, or for an authority other than the housing authority, eg for a government department, police, fire or other public authority.

Column 2 (Registered Social Landlord dwellings)

Include all new dwellings built on behalf of housing associations or local housing companies, even if construction is carried out by private contractors. Dwellings should also be included if the housing association is not registered with the Housing Corporation, or if it was set up following a Large Scale Voluntary Transfer of dwellings out of local authority control.

Exclude the rehabilitation of dwellings. Exclude dwellings purchased by housing associations or local housing companies from private sector after the dwellings concerned have been completed.

Column 3 (Local Authority dwellings)

Include all new dwellings being built by your authority within your authority’s boundaries, on land owned or held on a long lease by your authority. Include in your figures those being built by another local authority within your authority’s boundaries. Include any new house building which is part of a larger scheme of local authority dwellings; even if this new build is only to replace the loss of dwellings arising from the demolition or conversion of existing local authority stock. Exclude all new dwellings provided for statutory purposes other than under the Housing Act 1985, or for an authority other than the housing authority, eg for a government department, police, fire or other public authority.

Exclude all new dwellings built on local authority land by housing associations, or by private developers for eventual sale.

Column 4 (Total)

Please include all new dwellings started and completed during the quarter.

These totals should equal the sum of the 3 boxes to the left.


Please confirm that this return is based on local authority inspected new build properties only.


You must enter an email address for any queries about, and any reminders for future submission of, the data in this return. This is a mandatory field for completion. For your convenience this field should be prefilled with the last address entered. If it is no longer current you will need to amend.


Please enter a contact name for queries about the data in this return.


Please alter the drop down box from No to Yes if all sections of the return are final and you are ready to submit the data. This will revert to No on saving if there are unresolved mandatory errors or uncompleted mandatory fields


Please enter a telephone number for the contact entered above.


Please use this box if you wish to provide additional information about the entries made in this return. You should use this box to explain data entries detailed in any non-mandatory errors (where the data does not need to be changed to clear them). If present these will be listed in the Status report

P2 returns form

P2 - Housebuilding Quarterly Return

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Published 14 November 2012
Last updated 27 August 2013 + show all updates
  1. Guidance notes and quaterly return form have been updated.
  2. First published.