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Northern regions overtake London on construction output

Northern Spire

Regions in the North of England are outperforming London on construction value when adjusted for population size, with the North East seeing the value of its construction activity almost double London’s in 2017, a report has said.

Public sector procurement specialists Scape Group has released a report called Essential Infrastructure 2018 assessing the UK’s construction output for infrastructure schemes, which covers the value of the work being done by the supply chain.

It shows that London has seen the biggest construction output, or biggest value of construction work, over the last two decades at £54bn.

However, when the regions of the UK are adjusted for size, the North East is the most active region: in 2017 it saw construction output (value) per person hit £458 compared to London’s £277, while the North West reached £381 per person.

Scape Group says the results show the North-South divide in construction activity is narrowing.

According to the report construction output for infrastructure schemes has been dropping in London since 2010, which coincided with an investment boost for the Olympics and Crossrail.

Scape Group chief executive Mark Robinson said: “This data clearly illustrates that the north-south divide in England starts to disappear when construction output is calculated per person. To encourage the increased delivery of infrastructure in areas where output has been low in recent years we need to continue to drive forward the devolution agenda.

“The metro mayors have a vital role to play but at the same time we need to encourage local authorities to work together to deliver infrastructure that meets their common ambitions and aspirations.”

Not all regions outperformed London. The West Midlands has the lowest infrastructure output per person since 2010 at just £194 per person for 2017.

In the report, its authors wrote: “Though it is important that infrastructure is delivered across the country it is concerning to see output in London decrease below levels seen in 1997, especially when facing rapid population growth.”

But Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) chief executive Alasdair Reisner warned against getting too carried away with the numbers.

He said: “We recognise the figures show there has been a fall in activity in London. That said, the industry will recognise an enormous amount of activity in the infrastructure sector in the capital for more than a decade.

“It is still, along with the South East, the largest market for infrastructure in the UK. However, these figures show the importance of sustaining this investment while maintaining growth and investment outside of London as well.”

Pictured is the Northern Spire in Sunderland. The two span, cable-stayed bridge has an A-frame pylon 105m high, beating the Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben) in London by 9m.

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