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Starts on site to fall in eight out of 10 sectors

Starts on site are forecast to fall in value this year in eight out of 10 sectors, according to new research.

Exclusive figures compiled for Construction News show that just education and health starts will be up this time around.

As expected, office developments and private housing starts have both headed south but areas previously thought to be robust such as social housing - which has seen mainstream house builders increase their share of this type of work as private housing plummets - and infrastructure have fallen back.

Civil engineering workloads are expected to bounce back over the coming years with a number of huge projects such as the £2.3 billion Thames Tideway and the £16 billion Crossrail project coming on stream.

Other areas in decline include industrial and retail - although the latter is expected to benefit from shopping centre owners sprucing up existing sites rather than beginning new ones.

The hotel and leisure market is projected to show the biggest loss - with it expected to be down a fifth on last year - although the 2012 Olympics and attendant visitors is expected to provide a tonic over the next couple of years.

Those regions worst hit are Wales and Yorkshire & Humber but a number of others, such as the South-west and East of England, have actually risen.

Worries about the credit crunch have intensified in the house building sector in recent weeks, with both Persimmon and Taylor Wimpey seeing pre-tax profits shredded by buyers’ inability to get hold of mortgages.

But the malaise has not transferred across to general contracting, with big name firms such as Balfour Beatty, Carillion and Costain all reporting profit increases in the recent round of results.

Industry leaders have said they are more optimistic about the problems in 2008 compared to the recession of 1992 mainly because of the amount of public work still on offer and the
lack of mass unemployment.

Other factors giving chief executives cause for hope are the Olympic Games - and the gaps that will have to be plugged in some of the regions as contractors are pulled out to work on them - plus developing markets such as India and China.

See a breakdown of the downturn by local area at cnplus.co.uk/constructiondownturn

Few sectors predict growth in 2008

VALUE (£BN)
SECTOR 07 (ACTUAL) 08 (PROJECTED)

Private housing 11.96 10.89
Social housing 3.38 3.32
Industrial 3.13 3.06
Offices 5.11 4.48
Retail 1.68 1.53
Infrastructure 5.58 5.50
Education 5.16 5.39
Health 1.80 2.09
Community/Amenity 1.14 0.90
Hotel and leisure 2.55 2.00

Source: Emap Glenigan