Construction output falls in August

New figures have revealed the UK’s construction output decreased by 1.5% in August.

According to the latest statistics from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), all new work, and repair and maintenance fell by 1.4% and 1.5% respectively.

The largest contribution in the downwards trend came from infrastructure, which fell 5.1% in August compared to a 6.1% rise in July.

Compared to last year, infrastructure activity has fallen by 9.3%, the sixth consecutive month of year-on-year decreases.

Rod Domeney, the head of RSK Group’s Manchester office, said it is evident Brexit is “still having a degree of impact” due to the likelihood projects and investments are on hold because of uncertainty surrounding the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.

“What the industry is really looking for is a sign of the Government’s clear commitment to the Northern Powerhouse, on which there have been mixed messages recently,” he said.

“A commitment to projects like HS2 and HS3 would spark renewed investment in the region, having a real impact on the construction sector and the wider economy.”

Michael Thirkettle, Chief Executive of industry consultants McBains Cooper, added the real concerns lies with what a ‘hard brexit’ will do to the UK construction industry’s labour supply.

“Because of skills shortages in the UK, skilled EU trades are a vital source that will be cut off once we leave the EU,” he said.

“Demonising skilled migrant workers and imposing regressive immigration policies will demolish any hopes of meeting housebuilding targets and solving the housing crisis.  The Government should send a signal that migrants will be welcome in the industry, and add skilled construction workers to its Shortage Occupations List.”



Dissatisfaction with planning times ‘at highest ever level’

Frustration with the time taken to decide planning applications is on the rise, despite there being no discernible drop in performance by planning authorities

A new survey by the British Property Federation and property consultancy GL Hearn found that 80 per cent of applicants are now dissatisfied with determination times – the highest level ever recorded.

This is despite the research finding that average determination times for major applications – at 31 weeks from submission – were no longer than last year.

Figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government also show that 84 per cent of all planning applications in 2015-2016 were determined within the department’s 13-week target.

The report said: ‘While the planning system is not slowing down, this year’s findings provide further evidence to suggest that the current targets are simply unrealistic for most major planning applications under current conditions.’ The study said that measures introduced to speed up determination were not working properly and noted that hopes that a greater focus on pre-application discussions would shorten the process had not materialised.

‘With increased emphasis on the pre-planning stage, it would be hoped that the proportion of applications brought forward to determination in an acceptable manner to gain approval would be on the rise,’ the report said.

‘As this is not happening, attention needs to be paid to understanding how we can minimise wasted effort on all sides by ensuring that all submitted applications are well-informed, appropriate and more likely to ultimately succeed.’

The survey found that more work is needed to make planning performance agreements (PPAs) – now used by more than half of major developments – more effective.

It found that 60 per cent of applicants and 54 per cent of council planners are yet to feel any direct benefits in faster determination speeds or reduction in resource pressures.

However, the report said: ‘Beyond these teething problems, the industry is still very enthusiastic about the potential of PPAs with the majority of both applicants and Local Planning Authorities believing that they can have a positive impact on speeding-up decisions and alleviating resourcing pressures.’

Nearly two thirds of applicants (65 per cent) said that PPAs should have a set timeframe, while 45 per cent of council planners called for the introduction of standard formats.

The report also found that planning authorities within the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ approved 11 major applications per 100,000 residents, compared with just nine in Greater London.

Ninety-seven per cent of local authority planners and 83 per cent of applicants said that the community infrastructure levy had either reduced or not changed development activity.

The government is currently considering a report on the funding mechanism by former British Property Federation chief Liz Peace.



One in three homeowners regret DIY

Over a third of UK homeowners have regretted the results of a DIY project and wish they had called in a professional to do the work instead, according to a new survey.

Home services marketplace’s latest survey has found that over a third (35%) of UK homeowners have regretted the results of a DIY project and wish that they had called in a professional to handle it.

As the property ladder has become unsteady since the UK vote for Brexit, a poll by home services marketplace found that home improvements have become the more attractive option for homeowners, rather than uprooting and moving on. Depending on the size of the project, many attempt the work unsupervised in an effort to save money.

However, according to Plentific’s statistics, one in three find their results less than pleasing, and in retrospect, would have chosen to hire a specialist instead.

The younger generation struggle most with DIY, as half (48%) of those aged 18-34 said they have regretted their past results. This high percentage may be down to them being relatively fresh on the property ladder and having yet to gain the relevant experience in DIY. It seems 18-34-year-olds would save time, effort and enjoy a more pleasing end result by hiring in a specialist.

The stats show a variation of DIY skill levels across the UK and stress that despite certain cities being more DIY-inclined, there is a demand for trade professionals nationwide.

Stephen Jury, spokesperson for Plentific, said: “Cases of regretful DIY projects are not unheard of, however these new statistics from Plentific show just how often they occur. It’s interesting to see that half of the young homeowners have DIY regrets. In this current digital world, these statistics could highlight the lack of DIY knowledge in younger homeowners, and emphasise their lack of confidence when carrying out projects which their parents may have more success with.”


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