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By Bonnie Hines

Reflections on Construction in Q1

With a divisive outlook amongst Brexit and other external forces, 2019 was predicted and proved to be a rocky slope in the construction industry. However, positivity shone through in many outlet reportings for 2020 and the general consensus was that 2020 would see a rise in construction contracts. Complete Utility Solutions is here to contemplate on the predictions, reportings and statistics of the first quarter of the year. 

As December 2019 accrued over £5b worth of contracts, it was easy to see that 2020 could give an uplift to the industry and the economy. Although many were hasty to bet on the predictions, early monthly performances showed that they could be correct. In January, Builder’s Conference reported a £7.7b total of contracts. Followed by £7.3b in February, and £7.9b in March.

March had £200m worth of contracts more than the first month of the year, despite the last weeks being thrust into lockdown territory. When reflecting on March 2019, this is a significant number, with last year's contracts, estimated at a similar timeframe, being worth £5.3b. Just into the second quarter we are looking at almost £10b worth of contracts for April, a hopefully positive sign of things to come.

Considering many other countries had shut down non-essential industry elements in January, the domino impact on Britain's construction industry was less impacted than imagined, as reflected in these contract amounts. 

During this time, London emerged as the most beneficial region for construction output, with close to 28% of projects being held there for Jan-Mar 2020. Despite London's success in projects, Oxfordshire has the highest average project value of £48m. Also unsurprisingly, the housing sector offered 40% of all developments in the same quarter. 

While there is uncertainty, the industry has proved strength and preparations prevail, with several dozen contractors stockpiling materials in 2018 and 2019 for post-Brexit import changes. This also contributed to the positive predictions 2020 already had. Closer to the middle of the year, we are seeing some impacts of materials, as expected. 

However non-essential works are continuing to be completed and many clients have drafted plans for current and necessary works, as well as future and post-lockdown developments. A great example of this is a vaccine production centre supported by ministers, to help speed up recovery of the infected. Read more on lockdown positivity in construction here.

The biggest project of the quarter was a rail link between Cambridge and Oxford, worth around £1.2b. The link is worth over double the amount of the second project on the charts, which is worth £500m, and is the new Everton Football Club Stadium.

Closer to home, Yorkshire had over 130 projects for the first three months of the year. A total value of almost £835m made it one of the most profitable regions in Britain. Moving forward to the future, Legal & General have invested in the Sheffield City Council project for retail, office and residential spaces. The investment of £150m will see a regeneration in Sheffield’s West Bar and Riverside areas. Legal & General CEO, Nigel Wilson told The Yorkshire Post  ‘This is not new territory for L&G. Our investment partnerships in cities such as Cardiff and Newcastle are already delivering at pace. Likewise our vision for West Bar Square is to deliver a much needed new quarter for the centre of Sheffield. During these unprecedented times, it is absolutely imperative that institutions continue to push forward with deals such as these, so we can position the UK for an accelerated recovery and lay the groundwork to support those most in need in society.”

We are continually proud to be in an industry that is conscientious of health and safety and progression for the economy. Health and safety measures are shown in the amendments being made for construction workers involved in key projects, wherein many companies have established virus protection. Example of this is the production of partitions for canteens, and social distancing technology on sites. Earlier this year, we even posted about what projects we have been working on or worked on have produced and altered to do their bit for health and safety benefits in the UK. Read more on it, here. In further good news, it was announced on 29th April that testing is now available for all those in construction with symptoms.

As always, Complete Utility Solutions offers its guidance and advice to all in the construction industry during this difficult time, and afterwards. Our staff are continuing to work hard from home, producing quotations and consultations for clients old and new. Send us through your plans, load information and project details to enquiries@cu-solutions.co.uk, contact us through our form here, or to talk to one of our team members on the phone, call 01709 540544. We look forward to speaking to you!

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