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Sat June 19 2021

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RICS survey indicates softening optimism

20 Apr 16 A survey of quantity surveyors reveals a decline in optimism among the profession about their business prospects.

RICS chief economist Simon Rubinsohn
RICS chief economist Simon Rubinsohn

The latest UK construction market survey by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) revealed a drop in the number of construction professionals saying that they expected to see workload rise over the next 12 month.

While the balance between those expecting workload to rise and those expecting it to fall was a healthy 55%, this was a considerable decrease on expectations from this time last year when 79% more respondents expected to see workloads rise.

Meanwhile, following 4% employment growth in 2015, respondents foresee headcounts continuing to rise over the coming 12 months with a net balance of 41% expecting growth, and a rise of 2% forecast, on average.

The survey also confirmed reports that growth in the private housing sector slowed down considerably during the first quarter of 2016. In fact, private housing workloads rose at their slowest pace since the second quarter of 2013. Only 36% more of those working in the sector reported a rise in growth rather than a fall over the first quarter of 2016. A year ago that figure was close to 50%.

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Across all sectors, the RICS construction market survey shows that 33% more respondents saw workloads rise rather than fall during the last quarter of 2015, down from 38% three months ago.

RICS chief economist Simon Rubinsohn said: “On the surface, it might seem surprising that we are witnessing a slowdown in the construction sector just a few months after hearing the Chancellor’s ‘We Are The Builders’ speech, given the Government’s significant commitment to this sector. One might well ask why growth in private housing workloads is softening at a time when policy is firmly focussed on the creation of new starter homes. We have long held the view that starter homes cannot be the only solution. There is an issue around the availability of land on which new houses can be built, and we would like to see more being done to free up private brownfield sites.

“Our survey tells us that planning delays are one of the biggest barriers to growth in the construction sector. We have recommended that councils work together to create a team of emergency planners who can parachute into boroughs that are experiencing significant delays, therefore reducing a major growth barrier.

“That said, we cannot discount the climate of uncertainty caused by the forthcoming EU referendum. We know that a range of sectors have been affected by these issues as investors look to delay any decisions until a final outcome has been determined, and construction is no exception.”

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