Contractors are blaming the downturn on tightening of lending in international credit markets for the decline in orders for geotechnical and environmental site investigations.
"We’ve been closely examining our order intake and we started to notice a fall initially in the January order book and this decline steepened in April," said Aarsleff Piling director Terry Bolsher.
Amec Earth & Environmental Services consultant Efeng Tanloh said: "We have noticed that orders for work have fallen year-on-year. Another sign of this [downturn] is that we have subcontractors who we normally have to book well in advance calling us looking for work and even offering discounts."
But the Association of Geotechnical & Geoenvironmental Specialists (AGS) said only one of its members reported "a fairly sharp decline in housing work".
Members working outside the housing sector reported no real change.
One unnamed consultant agreed that most of his firm’s contractors were less busy than a year ago. He emphasised that the slump had not led to corner -cutting on site investigations.
"It’s not a case of work being done without adequate site investigation, it’s more a case of the projects just not coming online," he said.
Bolsher said clients had begun delaying payments to main contractors, using them as a de facto credit facility in the absence of good lending rates.