Forget those rumours of Britain’s north/south divide – at least as far as construction is concerned. Urban regeneration is under way in city centres from Edinburgh to Portsmouth, and the demand for leisure and retail development everywhere points to a national building boom. Building takes the temperature across the UK.
Bright in the North-west

Liverpool is the new Manchester. At least, that’s what some in the industry say. It isn’t the whole story, but they do have a point. With most bomb-damage repair work now complete in the old Manchester, its recent rush of projects is cooling slightly. The city remains the engine of the North-west, but the biggest potential for growth in the next 18 months lies in Liverpool.

Several factors have driven this: the business-friendly political climate, European Union funding and the setting up of regeneration group Vision 2000, whose masterplan to transform parts of the city centre is due out in April. This is expected to encourage large amounts of speculative commercial work in a bid to get businesses to return to the city, and to decide that hotel and residential work has enough momentum to need less grant support.

But Manchester still has more than its fair share of work. The area around the Commonwealth Stadium is being redeveloped, and the re-facaded Arndale Centre is set for a £90m-100m overhaul.

The rush of work means it is harder to recruit skilled professionals. Hiring skilled tradesmen in Manchester is easier than two years ago, but there are reports of a dearth of plasterers and joiners in Liverpool. Tender prices are rising, but most people are confident that they are sustainable. Contractors still complain of tight margins, and many are pushing for more negotiated jobs.

Bright in the North-West

Eighteen months ago, I felt that Manchester was a bit of a hot spot. Now that feeling is fading Richard McGill partner responsible for the North-west, EC Harris Architects and surveyors are feeling more confident than they have for 20 years, and builders are busy cosying up to developers Paul Falconer Falconer Chester Architects, based in Liverpool Key projects £90m Manchester Millennium Stadium to be built by Laing for the 2002 Commonwealth Games Liverpool’s Vision 2000 strategy to revamp the port’s centre Price of a pint £1.50 Price of a three-bed semi £75 000 in Liverpool, £85 000 in Manchester