'Westfield scheme start would be a boost for surveyors'

Hopes that the region’s construction sector will begin to recover in 2013 have been lifted by the prospect of work starting on the delayed Westfield retail development in Bradford city centre.

But surveyors have called for more Government spending in infrastructure projects as well as more private development to kickstart the industry.

A new survey from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors predicts that Yorkshire's construction output will turn the corner this year with the market moving into 'first gear' after a ‘horrendous’ year in 2012.

Some 25 per cent more regional surveyors expect workloads to grow over the coming 12 months. The upturn is reflected in the small increase in reported workloads in the final three months of 2012 when a net balance of ten per cent more surveyors said activity had increased, with the most substantial gains being seen in private housing and private commercial development.

More than 90 per cent of RICS members believe that a lack of cash continues to hold the industry back, in spite of the introduction of the Funding for Lending Scheme, and 70 per cent said that weather conditions have hampered a recovery .

Ian Tomlinson, of Bradford and Leeds property consultants Rex Procter & Partners, and who is the RICS Yorkshire construction spokesman, said: “The local construction industry has been boosted by Trinity Leeds shopping centre but it is not clear what will replace it.

“Progress at Westfield in Bradford would be a boost, but in isolation this is not enough. We need increased spending across both public and private sectors.

“New government plans for education and housing spending only scratch the surface of what is needed. It remains to be seen the quality of the schools facilities that the new target building rates translate into.”Simon Rubinsohn, RICS chief economist, said: “After a truly dreadful year, if one believes the official data, there are signs that 2013 will bring some better news for the construction sector. Critically, competitive pressures in the sector remain intense which is continuing to erode profit margins.

“And for the time being financing constraints are still an issue although the Funding for Lending Scheme should gradually help to ease this challenge.”

Meanwhile, Wayne Gradwell, West Yorkshire boss of housebuilder Persimmon, which has developments in Bradford and Hipperholme, said 2013 looked like being another good year with a strong Spring selling season.

He said: “As a group, we have increased the volume of new homes legally completed by six per cent, our average selling price has also gone up by six per cent and our revenues have increased by some 12 per cent. The response from prospective purchasers is extremely positive and we’re confident that Government schemes including NewBuy and FirstBuy will support our sales even further.”

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