Construction industry at its weakest in four years but Lincolnshire firms are bucking the trend

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Britain’s construction industry had its weakest performance in four years, new figures show — but Lincolnshire seems to be bucking the trend, according to a Lincoln-based developers.

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics on Friday, November 11, show construction volumes fell by 1.1% in the three months after June’s vote to leave the European Union.

Large falls in repairs were only partly offset by small rises in infrastructure and public building work.

However, the fall was less severe than an estimated decline of 1.4% which was included in a preliminary reading of overall British gross domestic product for the quarter announced last month.

Mark Noonan, Customer Development Director for Lincoln-based Simons Group, said: “There’s definitely been a noticeable pause across our nationwide activity since the EU referendum decision. Although this did coincide with the usual summer lull, it felt like there was more caution in the market.

Current pipeline volumes for us are at record levels for this time of year  – it feels like everyone paused to catch their breath and then realised that nothing has actually changed yet.

“We do think it is definitely a time to be cautious though, with extended time being taken for procurement and to get projects to site.

“I would say that the number of cranes, road closures and activity across the city tends to indicate that Lincoln is bucking the trend!”

After rising steadily between 2012 and 2014, output in the sector has largely flat-lined since then.

British finance minister Philip Hammond is expected to announce an increase in public spending on infrastructure projects on November 23 when he is due to give the country’s first budget statement since the Brexit vote.

Photo: Steve Smailes for Lincolnshire Business

Steve Gelder, Chief Executive at Gelder Group. Photo: Steve Smailes for Lincolnshire Business

Last month, a RICS survey revealed that construction workloads in the East Midlands had risen rather than fall inline the rest of the UK, following the vote for Brexit.

Steve Gelder, Chief Executive at Gelder Group, said: “The Gelder Group is enjoying its best year ever, Brexit has created a lot of jitters within the market and we are not immune to them.

“Prior to, and immediately following the Brexit vote, similar to the 2015 general election, enquiries dropped sharply but for the past few weeks we’ve been inundated with opportunities and there does seem to be a certain amount of confidence returning.”

The figures came after a weak reading of industrial production in September earlier this week. But the ONS said it did not plan to revise its estimate for overall economic growth in the third quarter – which came in stronger than expected at 0.5% – after the two reports.

Britain’s construction industry makes up about 6% of the economy.

A closely watched survey of purchasing managers in the sector has shown a more upbeat picture of construction than the official data.

Britain’s economy has so far largely coped with the initial shock of the vote to leave the EU and last week the Bank of England said it expected a much softer hit to construction output this year and in 2017 than it previously thought.

The government launched a £5 billion homebuilding stimulus package last month, its latest attempt to address a chronic housing shortage which has helped to push up prices.