By Daniel Hunter

There was a surprisingly big fall in mortgage lending in January, according to the Council for Mortgage Lenders (CML).

CML said 41,000 mortgages were granted in January, down 16% on January last year and 26% on December.

The number of mortgages granted for first-time buyers was particularly poor - at 19,000, it was the lowest it's been for 21 months.

The UK's housing market has largely been on a cooling-off period since last summer, with prices mostly flat. In the early months of 2014, prices were booming with growth often more than 10%.

However, market experts believe the cool-off is only temporary. CML figures for completed sales during the November - January period were down on the same period a year earlier.

But Bank of England approval figures, which show mortgages that have been approved but not yet lent, started growing again during the period.

Paul Smee, director general of the CML, said: "The traditional beginning-of-year seasonal lull in lending is slightly more prominent in house purchase lending than in previous years, especially in comparison to the particularly strong levels at the start of 2014.

"Affordability constraints remain a factor for would-be borrowers, but we are still projecting lending to pick up over the next few months."