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South West construction sector

The construction industry in the South West is likely to continue to suffer in the second half of this year but an improvement is on the horizon.

In Q2 2018, the underlying value of construction project starts in the region slumped 17% according to Glenigan’s construction industry research as housing work faltered.

Glenigan’s economics director Allan Wilén says: “Development activity in the Bristol area should provide some impetus, but with the residential planning pipeline weak, we are not optimistic for growth in the South West this year.”

Housing down, civils up

This drop off in private housing work is reflected in National House-Building Council data, which showed that applications to start new homes in the South West fell 17% in the three months to May 2018.

In the 2018 financial year, housing starts in the region slumped 19% to 16,692 according to the NHBC.

Nationwide data shows house prices in the South West slowing. Prices were virtually static between Q1 2018 and the three months to June.

Glenigan’s construction market analysis shows housebuilders in the region planning less private residential work. The underlying value of private residential projects given planning approval fell 6% in 2017.

Overall construction project starts fell by 3% in the South West last year according to Glenigan’s industry data due also to weakness in civil engineering work.

A step-up in construction of two new reactors at the Hinkley Point C power station in Somerset will soon change this situation. This will fuel a 1% rise in construction jobs in the region between 2018 and 2022 according to the Construction Industry Training Board. This is ahead of the CITB’s national projection of annual growth in jobs of 0.5%.

Private sector growth

Private sector work is also growing. The Office of National Statistics data shows a 38% leap in private industrial construction sector output in Q1 2018.

Major projects going ahead include the £85 million Horizon38 regeneration project north of Bristol, where developers St Francis and Land Securities are developing 65 acres of land at Filton including nearly 600,000 sq ft of warehouses.

In July 2018, Savills recorded 1.9 million sq ft of industrial space under construction in the South West – up 32% from the end of 2017. More projects are expected. Rob Cleeves, a director at Savills’ Bristol office, says: “There are a number of sizeable requirements across the region being discussed and we anticipate significant activity in the second half of the year.”

Glenigan is also recording strong growth in office projects starting on site in the South West with a 36% rise in 2017.

Last year, Savills recorded 611,00 sq ft of office space taken up in Bristol. A key factor in this rise was 27,000 sq ft of space being taken by Simmons & Simmons at the £50 million Aurora scheme from developers Cubex.

Other commercial developments are moving forward. The Redcliff Quarter project will see a swathe of apartments, bars and restaurants, while a £300 million new campus for the University of Bristol received outline planning permission in July.

The future?

In Q2 2018, there was a 15% rise in the underlying value of work approved in the region. In the year to date, work in the pipeline is ahead by 6% and this augurs well for the future.

Mr Wilén adds: “Although we expect the decline in starts in the South West to worsen in the near term with a fall of around 7% in 2018, we are more optimistic about the longer term. We are forecasting a double digit increase in the value of starts next year.”

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