Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland building trade suffering as lack of Executive hits public projects

Jim Sammon, RICS Northern Ireland construction spokesman
Jim Sammon, RICS Northern Ireland construction spokesman
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

Construction workloads in Northern Ireland are falling behind the rest of the UK as the lack of an Executive holds up infrastructure investment, according to a survey today.

The report added the rate of decline in some sub-sectors of the building trade had eased.

However, the uncertain political outlook is hitting the sector with the lack of an Executive restricting public projects and infrastructure activity, respondents suggested.

Public projects and infrastructure work were at their lowest level for seven years, while surveyors were also concerned about the impact of Brexit.

The construction and infrastructure market survey for the third quarter of 2019 was carried out by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and law firm Tughans.

Overall, private sector housebuilding is the only sub-sector in Northern Ireland where activity is increasing. However, it had been expanding at a more subdued rate than in the second quarter.

And while workloads in private commercial and private industry had decreased, the rate of decline had eased. But overall, optimism about activity in the near future was dropping.

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Jim Sammon, RICS Northern Ireland construction spokesman, said: "Activity continues to be relatively strong regarding private building. However, the ongoing political instability and uncertainty is clearly having an effect elsewhere, particularly regarding infrastructure workloads.

"That said, surveyors are still reporting a shortage of skilled professionals in the industry, which reinforces the need to continue to invest in industry skills such as quantity surveying, as well as the job opportunities that exist for a career in construction."

Michael McCord, senior partner at Tughans, said 2019 was shaping up to be a "year to forget" for construction.

He added: "Firms in the sector will no doubt be hoping that 2020 marks a turnaround when greater certainty can be achieved in the wider economy, and that the NI government can be restored to facilitate key decisions that will support investment.

"In the meantime, many firms continue to be very dependent on work outside of NI."

While the survey points to a gloomy outlook on infrastructure work, progress is being made on the construction of a new transport hub by Translink.

Construction firm Graham was announced as the contractor to carry out early stage engineering work on the site at Europa Bus Centre.

Belfast Telegraph