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Northern Ireland surveyors are the 'least optimistic' in UK despite house building on rise, says report


Growth: Jim Sammon of the RICS

Growth: Jim Sammon of the RICS

Growth: Jim Sammon of the RICS

Northern Ireland surveyors are the least optimistic in the UK as political uncertainty continues to weigh down the construction sector, according to a survey today.

Research for the first quarter from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and law firm Tughans said there had been growth in private industrial workloads for the first time in two years.

Surveyors also indicated that house building had grown, so that overall workloads were picking up - though growth was the weakest of anywhere in the UK.

Meanwhile, growth in the private commercial sector saw a small rise in the three-month period, according to the net balance of Northern Ireland respondents.

But in the public sector, growth was stagnant. Surveyors working in the public sector other than housing said there had been no growth in over a year, while growth had slowed in public housing.

The infrastructure sector also saw a fall in workloads, according to the survey.

Northern Ireland surveyors were the least optimistic in the UK, while it was the only region in the UK where profit margins were expected to shrink over the next year. Whilst the net balance of respondents expect workloads and employment to increase in the next 12 months, the net balances are the lowest of all UK regions. Northern Ireland is also the only region of the UK where the net balance of respondents expect profit margins to be lower in a year.

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RICS construction spokesman Jim Sammon said: "It is encouraging that house building is continuing to grow in Northern Ireland and that the private industrial sector is at last showing some improvement.

"An increase in occupier demand for commercial property as shown in the most recent RICS Commercial Market Survey could be one of the reasons behind this growth in construction activity in the private industrial sector.

"Our respondents are continuing to point to the political situation as an impediment to growing construction workloads and we really need progress on the political front to improve confidence levels and investment."

Michael McCord, head of construction at Tughans, welcomed the increase in house building but added: "It's disappointing to see a fall in infrastructure workloads but as much of this work is publicly funded it's perhaps not surprising we are in this situation while we have no functioning Executive to push forward key infrastructure projects."