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Construction activity sluggish

Construction is down so far in 2024, with project starts, new contracts and planning approvals all dropping, concerning research from intelligence firm Glenigan has found.

The firm blamed this poor performance on economic uncertainty in the April edition of its Construction Review.

Allan Wilen, economic director of Glenigan, said: “Sluggish performance in Q1 2024 is unsurprising as economic uncertainty continues to deter private sector investment.

“However, there are some small glimmers of hope to be found within some verticals, which experienced modest growth during the Review period. Particularly education, health and community & amenity.

“This indicates a small boost in the public sector pipeline however, with a General Election approaching, any short-term improvement needs to be considered with a degree of cautious optimism.”

Averaging £7,215 million per month, work commencing on-site fell 3% against the preceding three months, to finish 28% lower than the same time last year.

Major project-starts fell 26% against the preceding three months and declined by 41% compared with the previous year.

It was an equally gloomy outlook for underlying work, dropping 22% during Q1 to stand 21% down on the previous year.

Regional Performance

Northern Ireland was the strongest-performing region in the UK, with project-starts increasing 44% against the preceding quarter, to stand 28% up on this time last year.

In the country growth was accelerated by the £44 million development of the Hamilton Dock Hotel in Belfast.

The outlook for the East of England was also sunny. It was the only other region to experience growth against both periods, up 13% on the preceding three months, as well as 25% on the previous year. Growth in the region was supported by the commencement of a £74 million 246-unit residential development in Maldon, Essex.

London experienced a 23% decrease against the preceding three months and remained 18% down against the previous year.

The West Midlands experienced particularly poor performance, with the value of project-starts falling 56% against the preceding three months and by 45% compared with the same time last year. This was the steepest decline of any region.

Work starting on site in the East Midlands (-49%), Wales (-33%), and Scotland (-25%) all remained distinctly behind 2023 figures.

Every other region of the UK experienced a weakening in project-starts against both the previous quarter and the year before.