Belfast Telegraph

Construction sector growth in Northern Ireland starting to slow down

By John Mulgrew

Growth in Northern Ireland's construction sector has slowed as skills shortages and the political crisis here holds up work, it's been claimed.

Northern Ireland was the only UK region to see a slowdown, according to the latest Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and Tughans NI Construction Market Survey.

And John Armstrong, managing director of the Construction Employers Federation, said it is "unquestionable that the lack of stable, devolved government is having an impact, especially as the failure to agree a Northern Ireland Executive Budget for the current financial year has given government clients significant levels of uncertainty in respect of planning and delivering their forward pipelines of work".

"The indicative budget figures that clients now have will undoubtedly help, but it does not resolve our concern that public servants will not have the confidence and comfort to take decisions regarding which schemes they should put out to tender beyond those schemes that currently have the political approval to move to those stages," he said.

"The industry has undoubtedly recovered since its low point in 2012 and opportunities, stemming from the revitalised levels of private sector and housing investment that we are seeing, are once again growing. However, business needs stability and the importance of a locally accountable Executive should not be overlooked."

And expectations for workloads among respondents looking 12 months ahead softened, but remained relatively strong.

Meanwhile, surveyors cited the lack of a "functioning Northern Ireland Executive and the fact that there are increasingly apparent skills shortages - partly linked to Brexit" as the cause of problems.

But overall the sector here "appears to remain in growth mode", according to the survey.

In Belfast, a number of major construction projects are under way. That includes the new City Quays 2 office building and Marriott AC hotel at Belfast Harbour along with the Grand Central Hotel on Bedford Street.

RICS construction spokesman for Northern Ireland, Jim Sammon, said: "The picture painted by the Q1 survey is one of growth, and expectations looking 12-months ahead remain relatively strong.

"The growth in private commercial work is welcome, and perhaps underlines that Northern Ireland is a good place in which to invest. However, there is a clear softening in the data and surveyors remain concerned about the political situation."

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