Barratt Developments has appointed a new chairman to guide it through the housebuilding crisis, marking the sector’s first change in management since the start of the housing downturn.

But the news was largely overshadowed by steep falls in shares across the industry as investors mulled over grim house price data from Nationwide, which pointed to the largest single monthly fall in prices in more than a decade.

Charles Toner, who is stepping down after six years as chairman of Barratt, was credited by many for bringing in the present management and initiating the acquisition of Wilson Bowden.

The purchase, made at the peak of the market in February 2007, left Barratt struggling under a debt burden of nearly £2bn.

Toner will be replaced by Bob Lawson, chairman of Hays, the recruitment company, and a former chief executive of Electrocomponents, the specialist distributor.

Financial Times