Belfast Telegraph

Fears over shortage of high calibre office space in Northern Ireland says Invest NI report

By John Mulgrew

Northern Ireland could lose out on attracting crucial foreign direct investment (FDI) due to a lack of prime office space, a new report has said.

Invest NI - which briefed Stormont's enterprise committee on the concerns - has suggested it intervenes in the market here to help "stimulate the development of new grade A office accommodation".

The economic development agency's briefing yesterday summarised part of a long-awaited report into Northern Ireland's commercial property market in the wake of the economic downturn.

The committee was told that: "It is becoming apparent that the Northern Ireland office market is reaching the point where it will be unable to offer variety and choice to either potential FDI or to those companies with growth plans."

It also says there is "limited potential" for significant development over the next five years due to a lack of developer cash.

Invest NI explored a range of options to rejuvenate the market here.

That included buying new office buildings and providing development funding.

But it said that providing "mezzanine funding/equity" offered the best chance of stimulating the development of new Grade A offices.

As for the lack of grade A office space, the report points to just two new office building developments at the City Quays at Belfast Harbour. Rents are also predicted to continue to rise over the next few years.

SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone, who is chairman of the enterprise committee, said he was "disappointed" at the outcome of the report.

"Deti has to answer why they have taken so long to come to this conclusion, and what they have done in the meantime to rectify the situation. If they have been sitting on their hands and have failed to address this most basic requirement for attracting investment, then we must ask ourselves if Deti and Invest NI are fit for purpose."

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