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Construction National blog: 08/03/2012

Construction National blog logoWith the Budget due on 21 March, there seems to be no agreement among the commentators on which direction the construction industry is headed.

A report on the economy for February by financial information services company Markit, in conjunction with the Chartered Institute of Purchase and Supply, was cautious but optimistic for the 12 months ahead, seeing higher levels of optimism than at any time in the past year, citing an “upturn in the construction sector”. In the construction news section of this website it is reported as saying: “All three categories of the construction industry saw growth in February, with commercial increasing at its fastest level since September 2010, while civil and housebuilders returned to growth.”

Other sources are less optimistic. The Construction Products Association looked at the fourth quarter of last year and found it “very poor” for the vast majority of firms in the sector. What was most concerning was that the report found life particularly bad for SMEs. It followed that up with a letter to the Chancellor calling on him to “introduce a range of practical policies that, whilst helping drive growth, will not endanger the government’s desire to achieve its medium term deficit target, but speed the country’s economic recovery”.

The NHBC, meanwhile, appears to be facing both ways. While there was a modest increase in new home registrations in January compared to the same month last year, the figure for the quarter from November to January showed a 16% fall. That itself was against a backdrop of a dramatic fall in the social and public market. Two areas are singled out for attention as bucking the trend: the North West and North East, with 12% and 39% increases respectively.

Not all the construction news stories have been doom and doom, however; there have, been exceptions to the overall picture in the industry. The Crossrail project has been forging ahead, for example, with newly-refurbished stations opening almost weekly. A story in the print version of Construction National recounts how spoil from tunnelling is being transported to a new RSPB nature reserve in Essex – a welcome change from the usual tales of birds vs transport.

Finally, on behalf of the entire Construction National team, I would like to wish ‘God speed’ to Imtiaz Farookhi, out-going chief executive of the NHBC. Mr Farookhi has almost certainly appeared more times on the front cover of this magazine than anybody else over the years we have been covering the Pride in the Job awards. He was more than just the ‘face’ of the awards, though. He was instrumental in promoting the concept of zero carbon homes and in the establishment of the NHBC Foundation. We all wish him well.

CHRIS STOKES