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Project starts decline in three months to February

Construction starts were 7 per cent lower in the three months to February thank the same period 12 months ago, construction intelligence provider Glenigan.

Data on schemes valued at £250,000-£100m showed that falling work in the housing sector during the period dragged down the overall value of project starts.

Residential starts were down 13 per cent year on year in the three months to February, with both the private and social housing sectors weakening.

There were mixed fortunes in the non-residential sector, with an increase in starts for retail and hotel and leisure projects. 

However, these were outweighed by declines in office, health and education projects.

Civils work was up 5 per cent on a year earlier, with utilities jobs boosting the sector.

Glenigan economics director Allan Wilén said: “The February Index suggests the flow of projects has steadied.

“Overall non-residential projects were 4 per cent lower than a year ago, but 17 per cent up against the three months to November on a seasonally adjusted basis.

“The year-on-year decline is due to a sharp drop in office project starts and weakness in public sector-funded areas such as health and education projects.”

CPA senior economist Rebecca Larkin said the figures suggested 2018 would be a tougher year.

“At first glance, the fall in private housing starts is surprising, especially given recent financial results that show the continued support from Help to Buy for volume housebuilders,” she said.

“However, it most likely reflects a natural slowdown from the record-high levels of output during 2017 as we enter a more uncertain year, both politically and economically.

“The positive news for the commercial sector on a three-month basis is encouraging, but is overshadowed by the sharp annual drop in office starts, which suggests a period of significant weakness ahead.”

PMI data released at the start of February showed construction activity was barely above the threshold for expansion, with housebuilding ending a 16-month run of increasing activity.

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