Belfast Telegraph

Building sector in 'severe' recession

By Margaret Canning

Northern Ireland's construction industry is suffering the most across all the UK from a debilitating recession in the sector, according to a bleak survey.

Chartered surveyors told their professional body that they believe the province's building sector remains in severe recession and that they expect the situation to get worse, despite signs of life in the construction sector in other parts of the UK.

Over a third of respondents to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors' (RICS) quarterly report said their workloads fell in the last quarter of 2009, making the province the worst performing UK region.

At 80%, most were full of pessimism that there would be even less work for them to do in 12 months time.

They blamed delays to public sector projects, delays in wind energy projects and fears of public spending cuts for spooking the industry and compounding fears for the future.

Jim Sammon, RICS Northern Ireland spokesman, said: "There clearly remains a significant amount of pressure on the Northern Ireland construction industry.

"Investment in private sector construction has been significantly curtailed and, with economic growth this year likely to be weak at best, there is unlikely to be any kind of notable rebound. Public sector work is therefore critical.

"But there are of course pressures there too, with the Investment Strategy for Northern Ireland reduced and public spending being cut."

John Armstrong, chief executive of the Construction Employers Federation, agreed: "Our own state of trade survey tells the same story. Our survey said 52% or our members expect their workloads to be lower over the next 12 months and that 46% were working at half or less than half of their normal capacity during the last three months of 2009."

He said the construction industry wished to convey the message that its recovery could ultimately galvanise the overall economy.

"The message we want to get out to the Assembly and the Executive is that construction, more than any other industry, has a multiplying effect, which means for every £1 spent, another £2.85 is generated.