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Fears of pre-election slowdown unfounded

Concerns over a pre-election slowdown failed to materialise in April, with just 409 projects placed on hold, compared with a higher figure of 547 the previous month

Private housing performed best according to construction industry monitor Glenigan, with 131 projects put on ice in April, down from 175 in March.

Glenigan economics director Allan Wilen said: ‘The steady improvement in house prices and property transactions since last summer has helped rebuild housebuilders’ confidence and encouraged the opening of new sites.’

Unlike social housing, which has seen a 10 per cent rise in the number of projects placed on hold for April compared to the previous month, private housing has beaten the election curse seen in education and health.

Andy von Bradsky, chairman of PRP said: ‘There is definitely a significant improvement to the housing market this year compared to last and at the present time the rest of 2010 looks to fare well in no small part due to Government investment to kickstart the housing market. However there is still a long way to go before we are out of the woods.’

Chris Brown, chief executive at developer Igloo, said: ‘Markets were unaffected by the election. Activity on site and land-buying have both increased with the start of the new financial year.’

The findings correspond with the RIBA’s latest Future Trends Survey, which saw predictions for future workloads remain most positive in the private housing sector. However, the survey revealed an overall picture of growing pessimism.

The number of practices expecting workload to increase dropped again from 34 per cent in March to 31 per cent in April - in February the figure peaked at 38 per cent.

Adrian Dobson, RIBA director of practice said: ‘Predictions for future public sector workloads have fallen to a new low, with a balance figure for this sector of -22. 

Practices of all sizes agree that public sector workloads are set to fall significantly.  The commercial sector workload forecast has risen marginally to stand at +6 this month, but there is little evidence yet of confidence in a sustained recovery in commercial sector workloads.  Overall private housing, with a balance figure of +17, continues to be seen as the sector offering the best future workload prospects.  Smaller and medium sized practices continue to see this sector as offering potential for growth.

‘In terms of current workload, practices report that levels of work in progress have declined by some 7 per cent in the period May 2009 to April 2010.  This indicates that whilst the most dramatic reductions in work for architects occurred in the period up to and including the first quarter of 2009, there subsequently has been a further less marked decline in overall workloads.  Correspondingly overall staffing levels have declined by a further 5% in this period.

‘The RIBA Future Trends Workload Index for April 2010 is almost unchanged at +12, compared with the March 2010 figure of +14.  As was the case throughout the last quarter, large practices (those employing more than 50 staff) remain the least confident about future workloads (balance figure -25). Geographically, practices based in Northern Ireland remain the most pessimistic about future workload levels (balance figure -57), whilst those located in the South of England, outside London, are the most optimistic in their forecasts (balance figure +30), indicating significant variation in sentiment across the UK.’

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