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According to Bert van den Heever, past president of the Association of South African Quantity Surveyors (ASAQS), the latest statistics released on the value of recorded building plans passed for the private sector in South Africa may indicate an economic shift to the south of the country.

Although Gauteng remains the biggest contributor to the total value of building plans passed – with 37,5% compared to the Western Cape's 25,1% – it also showed the largest negative swing when compared to last year's figures. In addition, the Western and Eastern Cape showed major increases in the value of projects at planning stage.

Cape the new construction hubvan den Heever says that people try to mitigate risk during uncertain economic times by rather spending money on fixing up existing property than splashing out on new builds. The value of plans passed in the Western Cape rose by 9,7% compared to a year ago, and the Eastern Cape's figures increased by a staggering 53,5%.

However, Deon van Zyl, chairman of the Western Cape Property Development Forum, cautions that the economic growth in the Western Cape is being driven more by semigration than by real new economic growth. “At a medium and long term perspective I am concerned about the slow pace of new Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) applications at a Provincial level. EIA applications tend to identify planned developments over five hectare in size as they trigger the National Environmental Management Act. We are not seeing a growth in new applications,” he adds.

“What is desperately needed is investment that will lead to job creation. Property development remains a bell weather industry, reflecting the economy at a point in time. Investment is a direct response to confidence. The Provincial and local governments’ attempts to practice and reflect clean governance do assist in generating confidence in the Western Cape. What we desperately need is confidence in the country.”

van den Heever adds that building plans passed are a strong indicator of the future health of the construction industry as a whole. The value of recorded building plans passed for the private sector – at current prices – decreased by 2,4% during January to August 2017 compared with the same period in 2016. Non-residential buildings fell by 14,3%, but additions and alterations rose by 7,4%.

Image credit: http://www.asaqs.co.za/page/pres2015

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