Publisher Lesley Mayo

James Parker


Yes, the weather outside has been frightful – and certain Russian leaders might be less than delightful – but you can’t blame everything on the Beast from the East.

Some builders might blame our useless March weather for stalling progress on house construction, but the recent Purchasing Managers Index report on the construction sector showed a continued downward trend in performance that can’t just be put down to snow.

Admittedly the fact the PMI index showed the fastest overall decline in the sector since 2016 largely reflected a drop in work due to staff availability on site and weather stopping play. Residential construction actually performed best of the sectors PMI measures, though arguably this is due partly to how badly commercial and civil engineering performed in March.

There were also disappointing figures on new orders and employment in the manufacturing sector in March, the symptoms of a bigger problem. Weather comes and goes, however Brexit is a far more daunting challenge, due to the sustained level of uncertainty it is creating.

The problem is, the underlying picture in housebuilding is not good currently, and the question is whether it can withstand the weather from Brexit in the coming months. The March PMI index followed a February reading that showed house- building to be lukewarm at best. Like manufacturing, new order volumes were poor, and most businesses like to look to the future rather than the present.


Patrick Mooney on how the new Act on homelessness will force councils to act



Canary Wharf becomes a place to live as well as work – HBD reports on the making of a district

Covering compliance when it comes to lift accessibility – reviewing the impact of new regs

Business confidence is fragile, and the only sign of any concrete progress on the Brexit talks is that some timetable clarity has emerged on when the transition period will end, namely the end of 2020. Talk about small mercies; all we know is that there is a date when, potentially, some of the rules we currently obey for the benefits of being ‘in the club’ will end.

There are so many fine details to be ironed out before we get close to a trade deal with the EU, and many commentators now believe this needs to happen by the end of October. It’s barely credible. And the bigger picture is the magic trick needed to square the circle of leaving the customs union without having a hard border between the north and south of Ireland. To an outside observer, it must seem barely conceivable as a realistic prospect.

The EU seems willing to be constructive, and Theresa May is going to try her hardest to produce the best deal she can. However what that could mean in terms of positives to the UK economy – when EU leaders will refuse to allow the process to be an advert for leaving to other countries – is very hard to understand.

SKY’S THE LIMIT FOR LONDON High-end housing developments continue momentum, despite looming Brexit worriesHigh-end housing developments continue momentum, despite looming Brexit worries

In the meantime, while businesses and homeowners have the minor comfort of knowing little may change practically until 2020, the uncertainty as to what their world will be like following that remains. The outcomes so far seem to be falling housebuyer confidence, reduced investment, ever increasing materials costs and worsening skills shortages. I remain to be convinced that the trade off with the imagined future economic benefits will be one worth making.

©St William development at Prince of Wales Drive go to page 12


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