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Construction sector set for small upturn, study claims

By Margaret Canning

The local construction industry will experience "modest growth" this year, according to a review by infrastructure services company AECOM.

The firm, which surveyed around 4,000 people in construction and property on the island of Ireland, said output in the first six months of last year was up 4.5% on the same time 12 months earlier.

The year was "relatively stable" for construction, particularly due to a boost to construction in Belfast from investment by the city council, it added.

Despite other surveys reporting a fall in commercial investments last year, AECOM said the city was starting to attract investment from London, the US and Middle East due to the reasonable returns available.

Last year was the first full year since planning powers were devolved to councils, which AECOM said prompted an increase in the number of decisions being made.

But the review also predicted that the shortage of Grade A accommodation would get worse during this year, though some in-progress schemes would begin to meet demand around the end of this year and next.

Trevor Leaker, director for architecture and engineering Ireland at AECOM, said: "Despite uncertainties created by the Brexit referendum outcome, Northern Ireland's construction industry enjoyed a stable year in 2016 with gentle growth across the sector. While political and economic uncertainties look set to remain in 2017, the promising number of developments in the pipeline indicates further growth.

"Industry must tackle the worsening skills shortage and take advantage of its unique relationship with the Republic of Ireland if it is to maximise the benefits of opportunities."

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