The number of fresh construction orders in the year to March dropped 4% on the previous 12 months, according to latest government statistics.
The decline was largely because of a fall in demand in the infrastructure market, which saw a drop in orders of 15% over the 12 months. Industrial orders slipped 4% over the same period.

The DTI figures were not all bad news, however, as they showed a 1% increase in the first quarter of this year on the same period last year. Orders were 14% up on the last quarter of last year.

There was also evidence that the commercial market is beginning to bounce back, as many industry observers have started to claim. Commercial construction orders in the first quarter of this year rose 46% on the final quarter of last year.

The UK commercial property forecast for May compiled by the RICS backs up this result. The RICS survey says office rents are poised to rise this year as economic recovery gathers pace.

The anticipated rise is in response to an increase in demand for space. This boost in demand is likely to feed through to additional office construction.

Commercial property rents are expected to increase 0.9% this year and 1.3% next year after two years of decline.