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Construction in Belfast at highest level in almost a decade, says new report

Construction in Belfast is at its highest level in almost a decade, according to a new report.

Eleven new development schemes were completed in the city last year, including two hotels.

A further six hotels are currently under construction, set to deliver more than 1,000 new hotel rooms.

A total of of 30 schemes are under construction or just recently completed in the city, including the eight hotels, four new educational facilities, seven new student accommodation projects and six office developments, according to the first Belfast Crane Survey report produced by Deloitte Real Estate.

Simon Bedford, partner in Deloitte's Real Estate practice, said the report shows that Belfast is on an upward trajectory as a location for investment and development.

Ulster University's move to a larger campus in Belfast has seen a number of student housing schemes already being built.

The report calculates that almost 2,500 student accommodation bed-spaces across seven major projects are currently being built in the city centre area.

This is in addition to 413 bed-spaces that completed in 2016.

Queen's University is also continuing its investment in new teaching facilities and supporting new student residential development in the city centre.

Suzanne Wylie, chief executive of Belfast City Council, said: "The report demonstrates that private sector developers and investors see the opportunities being created by a growth in tourism, new companies locating here, growth in our own business base and more people, including students, wanting to live in the city centre."

Ms Wylie claimed that over the next five years more ambitious targets will create 15,000 new jobs, double tourism spend and encourage another £1.5 billion of investment in more buildings and regeneration projects to meet demands.

According to the report the retail and leisure investment is also healthy, with Deloitte noting that the business rate revaluation is leading to more store openings and new brands coming to the city, filling space in Ann Street, Castle Lane and Castle Court.

However, office and residential development activity was subdued. The report said that 84 residential units were completed in the city centre in 2016, but none are scheduled to come to the market in 2017.

"Office development has proved difficult to finance in the market, which is unfortunate as the corporate demand for Grade A office space is on the increase.

"It is also clear that city centre living has yet to really take off in Belfast, but growing student numbers will, we believe, drive this market forward before 2020," said Mr Bedford,

He added that it was highly encouraging to note the direct investment being made by Belfast City Council in the city centre - most notably in 2016 through the joint acquisition of the historic former Belfast Telegraph building on York Street.

"Belfast's popularity as a business and leisure destination continues to rise and this is having a direct impact on the local property and construction sector, which is attracting significant investment to meet demand.

"Belfast's development pipeline is in good shape and we therefore expect to see even more cranes on the skyline in 2017 and 2018," he said.

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