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Fall in new Belfast building projects is blamed on Brexit fears

Large city schemes under construction fell by 26%

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Suzanne Wylie, City Council chief executive, and Jackie
Henry of Deloitte with the 2020 Belfast Crane Report

Suzanne Wylie, City Council chief executive, and Jackie Henry of Deloitte with the 2020 Belfast Crane Report

Suzanne Wylie, City Council chief executive, and Jackie Henry of Deloitte with the 2020 Belfast Crane Report

Brexit uncertainty was the main factor in the number of major schemes under construction or completed in Belfast dropping by 26% in 2019, it's been claimed.

The fourth annual Belfast Crane survey, produced by Deloitte Real Estate, found the number of major schemes dropped from 35 in 2018 to 26 last year. The number stood at 30 in 2017.

However, new projects started in the city in 2019 rose by 33% from the previous year, going from nine to 12.

Neil Logan, partner at Wilson Nesbitt, said that he expects the number of schemes to rise again in 2020.

"There wasn't one residential development started in Belfast city centre in 2019, and it's not surprising given the year we had," he said.

“There were several factors but most prevalent last year was uncertainty over Brexit, however, the announcement of planning applications agreed for Tribeca and the George Best Hotel is a great start to 2020.

“We act for a number of property developers who are actively looking to develop in Belfast city centre and further afield. We’ve now got Stormont back and Brexit is done for all intents and purposes.

“Its a positive start and from conversation with clients I know there is a strong will to press on with development in Belfast and NI.”

The overall total includes nine office developments, four student accommodation projects, five residential developments, four educational facilities, three retail and leisure schemes and one hotel.

Simon Bedford, partner in the Deloitte Real Estate practice, said that despite 2019 being a quieter year for Belfast, “the city continued to show resilience”.

“The combination of challenges has slowed Belfast’s progress, but many of the pieces remain in place which, if allowed, are ready to accelerate regeneration and investment in the city,” he added.

“The city has made concerted efforts to consolidate the step change in development experienced over the past number of years. But there are infrastructure-related challenges which require urgent work and investment in major projects, including the city’s drainage and wastewater system which is a priority.”

Following the Bank Buildings fire, there was redevelopment of the former BHS premises on Castle Lane and Calvert House on Castle Place, while the £17m Odyssey Pavilion refurbishment also represents the first major investment in a landmark leisure space for several years, Deloitte said.

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