No Brexit bounce for construction in January

No Brexit bounce for construction in January

March 2021

The latest edition of the Economic & Construction Market Review from industry analysts Barbour ABI, shows no Brexit bounce for construction in January, but very strong warehousing activity, and a boost for the hotel and leisure sector due to exceptional planning approvals, reports TSJ.

The latest edition of the Economic & Construction Market Review from industry analysts Barbour ABI, which highlights levels of construction contract values awarded across Great Britain, shows subdued levels of activity in January 2021 although certain sectors shone.

The total value of contract awards in January 2021 was £4.3 billion, a decrease of 12% on December 2020 and also 10% lower than the monthly average in 2020 which was £4.8 billion.

Sector analysis shows that the total value of infrastructure projects reached £500 million in January, which is 57% lower than December 2020.
The total value of contract awards for industrial were also low compared to recent figures, in January the total value was £600 million which is a decline of 24% compared to December 2020.

With the thin Brexit deal providing the single greatest imposition of red tape in living memory, warehouse space is at a premium. This is reflected in the contract awards, with £600 million of industrial contract awards in January.

There was particularly significant activity in the warehousing sub-sector. Two of the top four overall contract awards in January were warehouse projects, including the £125 million Next Warehouse in South Elmsall Yorkshire, and the £100 million Uniserve Distribution Centre in Suffolk.

This contributed to the industrial sector seeing the highest activity; while continued strong contract awards for offices held up the commercial sector.  Activity in the education sector also increased, and the healthcare sector remained relatively strong.  However, only a small number of new infrastructure projects came through in January,
Planning in January was also strong in the industrial sector, with a total of £700 million new approvals. The hotel leisure and sport sector saw exceptional activity with £1.8 billion of approvals.  Here major projects included the £1.3 billion Olympia Redevelopment in London, a £250 million Gateshead Quays Redevelopment in the North East, and the £350 million Manchester Arena project in the North West.

Since contract awards underwhelmed in January, commentators believe that the sunlit uplands of construction optimism may be delayed for a month or two. It is anticipated that there will be renewed focus on the level of ambition in the March budget to build back better.

Commenting on the figures, Tom Hall, Chief Economist at Barbour ABI and AMA Research said: “The planning environment maintained activity in January, continuing its recent trajectory at lower than average levels. Those hoping for a bounce in activity as we leave the EU will be disappointed; clearly the Covid-19 pandemic remains the main factor suppressing activity. Meanwhile it is positive to see some life in the Hotel and Leisure sector with record planning approvals over the last quarter.”
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