Belfast Telegraph

Construction sector still lags behind rest of UK

By Amanda Poole

Northern Ireland's hard hit construction industry continues to lag behind the rest of the UK, according to the latest quarterly survey from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

The RICS Construction Market Survey has revealed that during July, August and September construction activity fell once again.

However, there were some crumbs of comfort in that the slide was at the least severe rate since the first quarter of 2008.

And the RICS said expectations for the market have improved significantly, with the majority of chartered surveyors expecting workloads to be higher in 12 months' time.

RICS Northern Ireland construction spokesman, Jim Sammon, said the local construction sector remains a very challenging place.

"What we are seeing is activity in the market falling at a less significant rate than before, and the expectation is for the pace of contraction to ease further," he said.

"However, activity is still falling, and the key challenges for the sector remain. Finance is constrained, private sector activity remains scarce, and public sector demand remains constrained.

"Many firms are increasingly turning to markets outside of Northern Ireland for work."

Mr Sammon said RICS would like to see the long-running discussion regarding the possible introduction of a lower rate of corporation tax for Northern Ireland come to a conclusion soon.

"This would be very welcome from the construction sector's and the wider economy's perspective".

Meanwhile, the latest Northern Ireland Construction Bulletin, a key measure of the wider economy, showed the value of construction output in the second quarter of 2012 dropped to its lowest level in five years.

The value of construction output for that three-month period was estimated to be £482m, 39.7% lower than the peak value in the first three months of 2007 at £799m.