Surveys Highlight Mixed UK Builder Sentiment

With signs that UK house price growth has returned, largely due to a lack of property for sale and worried potential buyers holding off from entering the market amid current uncertainty, it’s interesting to note that recent surveys have shown sentiment among UK construction firms is currently mixed.

A number of surveys and reports have been published since the EU referendum and the shaky market response it ignited. However, the different results only serve to increase the level of uncertainty over the UK economy, housing market and construction sector that already exists.

One survey from shows that 72% of the builders it surveyed say Brexit is bad for UK construction over the short-term. And, in the months since the referendum, 49% of respondents said they have jobs postponed and even cancelled.

A separate survey of architects conducted by the Architects Journal concurs with that view, with 51% of respondents saying they have had projects put on hold indefinitely since June 23rd.  The projects affected include a £2 million barn renovation, a number of London residential projects and a £100 million project in southern England.

Worryingly, one respondent said University and school schemes had been taken off thy table amid fears the UK Government couldn’t match the EU funding that was currently promised, the publication said.

London appears to be the hardest hit in terms of project delays and cancellations, the survey reports, although that’s not a big surprise to some.

“It is not surprising that larger negative effects are noted in London,” said Belsize Architects director David Green. “London-based financial services are the biggest industry at risk, with a knock-on impact on commercial and residential demand. It’s also where architects employ most EU nationals,” the former head of the European division of the Bank of England added.

On the face of these two surveys, then, the current outlook for UK builders isn’t great. A different survey of 108 SME builders by the Federation of Master Builders, (FMB) meanwhile, was less downbeat.

The FMB’s survey reports that 69% of respondents have yet to make any changes to their plans and jobs in the wake of the referendum.

“Despite some fears that the referendum result might put new projects on hold, the overwhelming majority of SME house builders are reporting that no decisions have yet been influenced by the referendum result,” FMB chief executive Brian Berry said.

However, while Brexit doesn’t appear to be having too much impact on this particular sector of construction professionals, so far, existing problems in the UK’s planning and building rules continue to weigh on their ability to secure and complete some projects.

The survey shows that 55% of respondents say red tape needs to be removed by the new Government, while 22% of builders think the Prime Minister Theresa May’s Government should ensure the construction sector can continue to rely upon skilled EU workers as part of the Brexit negotiations.

“The barriers to building that existed prior to the referendum are still hindering delivery, and as the housing crisis continues to be a pressing concern, the need to empower smaller developers must be a priority for May's Government,” Mr Berry added.

While the UK’s builders are perhaps a little less pessimistic than expected in the wake of the EU vote, the basic backdrop wasn’t particularly supportive in the first place. That means despite the differing views among builders over the immediate impact of Brexit-induced uncertainty, the Government must do more to ensure the UK construction sector can thrive and deliver the much-need homes to alleviate the ongoing housing crisis. 

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