The final month of 1997 brought in a combined main-contract total across all sectors of £1872 million and a 12-month moving average of £2418 million, meaning the year ended at a promising level. The unusually high December figure leaves the 12-month moving average at a far higher level than has been seen since late 1990/early 1991. The building-sector contribution of £1.523 million is the highest December figure recorded by Glenigan in the last seven years.
The monthly total at early planning stage fell predictably short of November's effort, but like all the other building stages, managed a year-on-year increase. Even the planning-approvals stage did not fare too badly, completing the year with a December total of 48 per cent (£160 million) above the same month in the previous year.
The promising state of the building sector has to an extent been counterbalanced by the dismal state of the civil sector, with December proving particularly dire. The civil main contract figure for December was the third lowest since 1990.
With construction activity set to peak in 1998, forecasters are convinced that the key sectors for the coming year are leisure and commercial. The retail category performed slightly under expectations, with a number of influences taking hold of retail sales, particularly in the clothing sector. The sports and leisure sector continues to grow.
Residential activity appears undaunted by the five interest-rate increases this year, although the dampening effect of the Christmas break is evident in last quarter's totals. With another interest rise expected in April, there are concerns that this will affect confidence. The rics believes that the five rises have dealt 'a severe blow to the housing industry'.
Industrial main-contract works share the improvement over the previous year, with growth of around 30 per cent over 1996. This is expected to continue, at a more subdued rate.
The monthly total of large and small planning applications was a 15 per cent improvement over the same month last year, evidence of greatly improved construction confidence. Smaller projects are largely responsible for the increase, and land prices have risen accordingly, although analysts warn housebuilders could suffer unless house prices match the quickening pace of land prices. Important news for the planning system comes in the shape of a complete detr evaluation of all planning procedures.
Medical main-contract works are still largely dependent on the success of the pfi. Light at the end of the two-year tunnel was glimpsed when the £214 million Norfolk and Norwich pfi hospital finally signed contracts, and it is to be hoped that other viable pfi schemes will proceed more quickly.
Detailed planning and plans approved both fell in December - probably just a seasonal pattern - but they are significantly above December 1996.
Main contract awarded
There are upward trends in private housing and public non-housing work. Public housing continues to bump along the bottom.
The South-east is the dominant region for December, in contrast to October when Yorkshire & Humberside led the field. That was almost entirely accounted for by the residential sector, whereas this time commercial activity dominates. Only the North West, South-east and Scotland show significant growth.
The rolling figures for the year for work at plans-approved stage shows little change from October. Imagination has shot into third place, with planning permission for the Millennium Dome. Foster & Partners has moved up a place with four more projects and a total value of £519.16 million. Practices which were not in October's top 20 are Sheppard Robson, rtkl Architects, Carnell Green Partnership and Paulley Architects.