Belfast Telegraph

Stormont crisis 'slowed construction'

By Margaret Canning

A drag in construction activity at the end of 2014 was partly due to budget gridlock at Stormont, it has been claimed.

Activity had grown for the fifth quarter in a row during the last three months of the year but at a slower rate than before, according to the construction market survey by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

The organisation said the deadlock over the budget - which was finally broken before Christmas - meant infrastructure activity ground to a halt.

RICS, which produced the survey in partnership with law firm Tughans, said Northern Ireland was the only region where surveyors reported a decline in the building of schools, hospitals and roads.

RICS Northern Ireland director Ben Collins said: "The activity being undertaken by local firms has risen for the fifth quarter in a row, but at a lower rate due to the fact that infrastructure workloads are now falling.

"The reality is that the growth is coming from work they are doing outside of Northern Ireland, notably Great Britain, where a number of local firms have been increasingly focused. Activity within Northern Ireland itself remains depressed, and the decline in infrastructure activity will only widen this gap between the local and Great Britain markets."

He said RICS wanted to politicians to recognise the "paramount importance" of spending on infrastructure.

"We understand that public money is finite and becoming more scarce... as we have said before, there are alternative methods of finance that should be considered. Research supports public private partnerships (PPPs) for instance as an additional viable solution."

Michael McCord, construction partner at Tughans Solicitors, said: "The Great Britain market remains buoyant and optimism there is growing, which is a positive for the growing number of Northern Ireland construction businesses operating there.

"However, the picture within Northern Ireland itself is somewhat more subdued, with public spending constraints a concern and likely to impact further on infrastructure workloads here.

"Companies will no doubt be continuing to focus on work external to Northern Ireland as well as closely watching for a recovery in house building locally."

Belfast Telegraph