Banking giant Barclays increased the volume of mortgages that it approved last year by 6 per cent, according to figures released this week.

Britain’s third biggest mortgage lender lent a gross total of £17.2 billion of mortgages throughout 2011, a £0.3 billion increase on the previous year, the bank’s full-year results showed. The higher volume of lending was largely accounted for by the increase in buy-to-let mortgages, higher loan-to-value (LTV) mortgages and first-time buyers.

The figures also showed that it had increased new net mortgage lending by 10 per cent in 2011, agreeing £6.5 billion worth of first-time mortgages, compared to just £5.9 billion the previous year. At 31 December 2011, Barclays was administering mortgage balances worth some £107.8 billion.

Barclays head of mortgages Andy Gray said that there had also been a sharp increase in remortgages in 2011, fuelled by the Great Escape initiative that was launched in autumn 2010 but ramped up in January last year.

“These figures demonstrate how we are helping people to move, remortgage or take their first step onto the housing ladder,” Mr Gray added.

“By increasing our lending to UK homeowners and specifically our support to first time buyers during 2011, we will continue to spread that commitment across both intermediaries and directly through our branch network this year.”

Overall, there is an upward trend for mortgage lending. A recent survey by chartered surveyors e.surv found that approvals had risen by nearly a third over the past 12 months. In January some 58,610 home loans were approved – a 29 per cent increase on January 2010. researchers said this was the highest level of approvals since December 2009.

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