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26th February 2013
The value of detailed planning approvals increased by 6% last year in a sign that underlying activity should be set to increase in the year to come. However the sector balance was varied and not all sectors of the industry will perform equally over the next year.
Approvals for private housing projects increased by the greatest amount last year, up 54% compared to 2011. The sector has benefitted from a number of government backed schemes to promote activity and there are certainly signs to suggest they are having the desired effect. Somewhat surprisingly social housing approvals also increased by 33% last year, starts in the sector were up last year and despite the rise in approvals we expect new work to decline this year, however the relative strength of planning approvals in the latter part of the year suggest this decline might not be as bad as initially thought.
Retail sector approvals fell by 10% last year, the sector has experienced a surge in new work in the past few years, but the final quarter of last year signalled a slowdown in activity as project starts fell below levels seen towards the end of 2011. The fall in planning approvals only adds weight to the argument that the best is now in the past for the sector and that new work going forward will suffer severe constraints as consumers and the high street face further pressure.
Infrastructure and utilities approvals both fell last year, down 49% and 20% respectively. The fall in approvals might not be disastrous for the infrastructure sector as approvals were at an elevated level in 2011, a number of major projects (£100m+) are also in the pipeline that should ease any fall in underlying work. The fall in utilities approvals might raise greater concerns, investment in energy generation and national grid infrastructure are still a priority for the UK.
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