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Building our way out of economic strife: Manchester is top area outside London for new construction contracts

By Reece Lawrence

Manchester’s skyline could be dominated by cranes once again, as the region is the top area in Britain outside of London for new construction orders, according to latest figures.

More than £1.2billion worth of new orders were won by contractors in the area during the period from July to December – the highest amount since 2009.

The figures, released by the Office for National Statistics, show an increase 64%, compared to the previous six months where just £740million worth of contract orders were secured, which itself was a sharp fall from previous periods.

They also revealed that more than 5% of construction orders in Britain in the final two quarters of 2012 were for new building projects in the Greater Manchester area.

These figures represent a boost for the region’s industry and suggest that order values have recovered at least to their levels between July 2009 and December 2011, where they hovered around the £1billion mark.

Richard Buck, Regional Key Account Development Manager at Kier Group, said: “Our mood is positive. Given there is a sharp reduction in public spending we are a strong place of opportunities.

“We are currently working on the Rochdale bus interchange and recently secured contracts for the Bolton and Wythenshawe interchanges.

“Investment in infrastructure remains strong, plus there are improvements in public projects like schools, colleges and health projects.

“We have seen an increase in retail and hotel opportunities, certainly in the last four months.”

Dr Brian Sloan, Chief Economist at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, believes it is a sign that things are beginning to improve, albeit slowly.

He said: “Construction orders in the North West have increased for a second quarter to the long term average since the year 2000 of around £1.5billion.

“Whilst this is the order book that includes a rise in infrastructure investment, when that money will spill over into wider economic activity and job creation is uncertain.

“Nonetheless it is clear that this money is coming to the region, there is clear visible evidence of projects getting off the ground and the statistics themselves are very positive news.

“We must reinforce confidence and acknowledge that conditions are improving, albeit slowly, and continue to demand that investment is made in our poor infrastructure, including roads, rail, ports, digital and energy connectivity.”

The figures were part of data published by the ONS which display a 3.4% increase in the total value of new orders in Britain in the fourth quarter of 2012, representing a consecutive quarterly increase.

Simon Rawlinson, Head of Strategic Research at asset consultancy group EC Harris, said:Two quarters of continued growth in orders have not been recorded since 2009, but the statistic is notoriously volatile, so it is best not to read too much into the trends. 

“However, given that the construction industry is a sector starved of good news, this data will provide some relief to everyone in the industry.”

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