Home builders in England are heavily reliant on EU workers and will need continued access to skilled labour from the bloc after Brexit to deliver the government's housing targets, according to a new report.

A census of more than 37,000 workers in house building sites across the country conducted by the Home Builders Federation (HBF) revealed that nearly a fifth were from EU countries.

More than half of workers on London sites were from abroad, with HBF stressing that safeguarding and growing this workforce is of vital importance.

In 2015, the Conservative government pledged to build one million new homes by 2020 – around 200,000 per year – to address the disparity between average house prices across the country and the average earnings of Britons.

The HBF said this target would be unattainable without continued access to workers from countries such as Romania, Poland, Lithuania and the Republic of Ireland after the UK leaves the EU.

"The results of this census clearly demonstrate the reliance the industry currently has on non UK workers," said Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the HBF.

"Output is up a massive 74% in recent years but achieving the very challenging targets set by government will require further big increases in workforce capacity.

"Whilst the industry is investing heavily in recruiting and training young people leaving our schools, colleges and universities, continued access to overseas workers is absolutely essential."

The warning comes a day after the chief executive of England's leading wine producer said Britons could "starve" post-Brexit, as there are not enough local workers to replace the migrant fruit pickers in the horticulture industry.

House building
The UK house building industry is reliant on workers from the European Union iStock

Frazer Thompson, chief executive of Chapel Down, told Press Association that continued access to European labour after Brexit is crucial so that tonnes of fruit do not go to waste in farms across the UK.

Prime Minister Theresa May has signalled her intent to clamp down on immigration from the EU after Brexit, arguing that doing so would help protect UK wages.