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Last updateThu, 16 Jun 2022 8am

Housing recovery: is it just a case of starting from rock bottom?

Construction National blog logoIt has been a rollercoaster ride for the construction industry in recent months. While both the NHBC and RICS have reported continuing falls in registrations and sales, both are optimistic for the New Year. Glenigan, the lead source for contracts and new work in the industry, has seen a veritable seesaw of new starts. That won't be seen as registrations or sales for some time yet, so there is always a lag, but the figure for the construction industry as a whole rose by 3% for the quarter to November compared to last year. It followed a 1% fall in October and a massive 11% fall to September.

Private housing is leading the way, with the social housing sector starting to stir. A note of caution was sounded by Glenigan's economist Andrew Whiffin.

"The turnaround in the sector is a bit of a shock," he said, "but the steep increase this month has a lot to do with the weakness of the sector at the end of last year rather than any strength in the latest data."

On major projects there was a dramatic fall in starts in October (20%), but the resurrection of the PFI as PF2 to finance schools, science and transport. The Priority Schools Building Programme is still stuck at £2.4bn – a long way short of the last Government's Building Schools for the Future programme.

 The Energy Bill has promised to provide a bonanza for companies involved in the large-scale civil engineering and utilities infrastructure industry – that is, builders of power stations.

Introducing the Bill to the Commons, Energy Secretary Ed Davey said: "Over the next decade, the investment needed to upgrade our energy infrastructure is almost half of the infrastructure investment needed in the UK. This is far more than is taking place in transport, in telecoms, or in water, and dwarfs the investment that was needed for the Olympics or Crossrail."

A major component of that will be nuclear, with the chilling prospect of small contractors being encouraged to get involved with the nuclear renaissance. Not only that – they'll be getting taxpayers' money to do it. As suspected by many, the Bill has put another nail in the coffin of the renewables industry, despite Davey's fine words.

 Speaking of the Olympic construction project, research from Loughborough University has confirmed that the 'big build' was the safest on record, with no fatalities and an injury rate of just 0.16 per 100,000 hours worked. That compares to a construction industry average of 0.55 and an average across all industries of 0.21. The TUC and the Prospect union welcomed the report. The success of the project in terms of its safety is put down to a general culture of safety awareness and co-operation between management, contractors and workers in managing health and safety.

Chris Stokes