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The state we're in

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February was a bumper month for main contract activity, with both the civil and non-civil sectors contributing high totals towards the combined main-contract moving average.

There were five major building contracts let, valued between £37 million and £90 million, which helped to bring the total to its fifth-highest value since 1990.

In contract terms, the residential sector maintains a high level of performance, with the February total the highest both year on year and month on month. The industrial sector also shows improvements both year on year and month on month, thanks to the inclusion of two office projects worth a total of £130 million.

Top architects

In our rolling annual total of architects' work at plans approved stage, Terry Farrell remains at the top with a substantial lead. This figure is deceptive, however, since much of the practice's work is masterplanning rather than designing individual buildings. The construction value of these schemes is evidently enormous, but in terms of the arhcitects' work, and hence fee income, is small compared to the income that would be generated for building design. Farrell's practice is doing well; but it is not, as these figures could suggest, outstripping every other practice in the country.

New entrants to the list are Percy Thomas Partnership, Holder Mathias Alcock, Pringle Richards Sharratt, Leslie Jones & Partners, Sir Michael Hopkins & Partners, FaulknerBrowns and Arup Associates. Practices which have fallen from the top 20 are Richard Rogers Partnership, Imagination, Sheppard Robson, Aukett Associates (now number 26), Carnell Green partnership (now 23rd), Paulley Architects (now 25th although with the same value for the same one project as last time) and Alsop & Stormer Architects.

Early planning

The February total of just £2890 million for the early-planning stage is a little disappointing after the promising total managed by the previous month.

This month's total is a year-on-year fall of 19 per cent (£725 million) on the same month last year, and also a loss against the preceding month of 34 per cent (1568 million).

February has also been the first month in over a year to show a drop in the level of small planning applications, while the level of large applications remains typically flat.

Plans approved

Planning approvals share the fate of the early planning stage and also suffer a year-on-year loss, this month of 30 per cent (£235 million). This follows last month's year-on-year fall, meaning that the first two months of 1998 have, to date, revealed nothing but decline for the level of planning approvals.

There is a prominent lack of large projects currently working their way through the planning process, with neither January's nor February's figure including any projects of significant value.

Main contract

February's total for building main-contract activity is the fifth largest recorded by Glenigan since the beginning of 1990. The sizeable total of £2338 million is formed from a well-balanced mixture of large projects and an even spread of smaller schemes across the uk.

Consequently, a year-on-year rise of 41 per cent (£683 million) is recorded, in addition to an improvement the previous month of 32 per cent (£564 million).

In the capital, the Fleet Street Partnership's £80 million project for new and refurbishment work on the Daily Express site leads to an 18 per cent year-on-year rise for London.

The South East was another region to benefit from the inclusion of a large project, with the £40 million ski slope at SnoWorld in Milton Keynes creating a 41 per cent year-on-year rise.

The South West was not to be outdone, with the lottery-funded £37.5 million Wildscreen World Bristol 2000 project now going ahead.

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