UK Construction’s Seven Heaven says Builders’ Conference CEO

It might be short of materials and workers, but the UK construction sector has forged ahead, delivering more than £7.0 billion in new contract awards during the month of June 2021. Scaffolding Association partners, Builders’ Conference’s CEO Neil Edwards looks over another bumper month, buoyed by further investment in defence, rail and – predictably – house building.

It is a month that has seen contractors Henry W Pollard and Nobles Construction close their doors for the final time; a month in which the finances of NMCN were called into question. And it was also a month in which the ongoing materials shortage tightened its grip on the UK construction sector; when the furlough scheme came to an end for more businesses; and when a number of migrant workers returned home as the EU Settlement Scheme drew to a close.

Despite being beset on all sides, the UK construction industry recorded more than £7.2 billion in new construction contract awards in the month of June to further highlight the disparity between market sentiment and market reality.

Sitting atop the BCLive league table in June 2021 was VIVO Defence, a joint venture between Serco and Engie that picked up two Ministry of Defence contracts valued at a combined £894 million. The largest of the two is a £558 million infrastructure refurbishment and repair contract across the Ministry of Defence’s Central Region including Wales. A second £336 million refurbishment and repair contract – this time for the Ministry’s South West estates – was won by the same joint venture company.

A third MOD refurbishment and repair contract valued at £432 million – this time in the South East Region – propelled Vinci Construction into fourth spot on the BCLive league table.

In second place was EKFB, another joint venture company this time including Eiffage, Kier, Ferrovial and BAM. EKFB was awarded the latest piece of the HS2 puzzle, a £580 million that includes the construction of two new stations as part of the main civils works between Greatworth and Southam. The works include 85 overbridges and 15 viaducts.

Redrow Homes kept the house building fag flying this month, picking up eight new contract awards valued at a combined £458 million to take third place on the table. The most significant of these is the planned construction of around 2,500 new homes at Great Wilsey Park in West Suffolk. This project also includes the construction of two new primary schools.

In a month in which 17 companies each won more than £100 million in new work, Kier Group once again reported the largest number of contracts, winning 20 new projects with a combined value of £279 million to claim the number five slot. The largest of these is a £180 million refurbishment and repair contract with Highways England for the upgrading of roads across the Area 3 region that includes Berkshire, Surrey, Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Dorset Wiltshire and Buckinghamshire.

Also notable this month is a £80 million contract awarded to Hill Partnerships for the conversion of the former Shredded Wheat factory in Welwyn Garden City into an entertainment centre.

This project will include the sensitive refurbishment and repair of the Wheat Quarter’s listed production hall. Another part will create the Louis de Soissons Building and Bridge Community Building. Plans have also been lodged for around 1,200 new homes – a mix of rented and residential care – on the site.

Despite the sizeable projects let outside the capital as part of HS2 and the Ministry of Defence refurbishment programme, London retained the top spot on the regional table, delivering 107 new projects valued at £2.46 billion. Once again, the East and West Midlands (£727 and £608 million respectively) performed well. Also enjoying a sharp uptick in works is East Anglia, which reported 27 new contract awards worth a combined £613 million. The various Wales regions contributed 18 new contract awards worth a total of £286 million; although news about a possible moratorium on road projects in the region is cause for concern.

With 180 new contract awards valued at a combined £1.86 billion, the house-building sector continues to lead the way. Although railways – £924 million – also made a significant contribution.

It now appears clear that the UK construction industry has taken its lead from the scientific advice surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. The sector has placed itself within a protective bubble that is seemingly impervious to all that is going on around it.

As the industry now starts what might be a return to the traditional summer lull, the hope is that the industry’s resilience continues into the autumn period.

Quick review of BCLive table for June 2021

  • 324 no companies were detailed as winning new contracts during June 2021
  • 516 no new construction orders were researched by Builders’ Conference all detailed on
  • the UK’s only Live league table of construction contract awards BCLive
  • A JV of Engie & Serco secured overall top spot with a two contracts worth £894 billion
  • Kier Group regained its position as the company with the most number of new construction orders in the month with 20no totaling £279 million

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