Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland's building trade suffers bleak second quarter as public spending stalled

By Margaret Canning

Northern Ireland's construction sector stagnated for a second quarter in a row as a lack of public spending continued to have an impact on the industry, according to survey today.

In the latest research by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) research and law firm Tughans, members of the profession said the lack of a functioning Executive at Stormont was dragging the sector down.

Not having a functioning devolved government was hitting confidence as well as resulting in a lack of funding for projects.

As a result, in the third quarter of the year, growth in the Northern Ireland construction sector was significantly lower than the rest of the UK, which saw relatively steady growth, RICS said.

Of all sub-sectors, only private housing and private commercial sectors were reported to have grown in the quarter.

Public housing and private industrial workloads fell, as did infrastructure workloads - though the latter had fallen at a more gradual rate.

And looking ahead, surveyors in Northern Ireland were much less optimistic about the future than their UK counterparts.

Jim Sammon, RICS Northern Ireland construction spokesman, said: "Weakness in public sector activity has led to a stagnation in the local construction sector, with infrastructure, public housing and public-non-housing activity falling back.

"A lack of investment in infrastructure in Northern Ireland is a long-standing issue, but anecdotal evidence from chartered surveyors suggests the current political situation is a factor.

"However, there are a number of other factors impacting on local construction as well, including uncertainty in relation to Brexit and challenges in the planning process."

The separate Northern Ireland Housing Bulletin from the Department for Communities this week said there had been a 19% increase to 2,444 in new dwelling starts in the province from April to June, compared to the previous year.

Tim Kinney, construction partner at Tughans Solicitors in Belfast, said: "Whilst the overall picture is one of stagnation, it is encouraging to see that private house-building activity has continued to rise, contributing to housing supply as well as delivering important economic benefits."

He added: "The construction sector remains crucial to the local economy in terms of employment, its supply chain, and the benefits it delivers to society, and government must play its role in creating an enabling environment so that essential investment, including in infrastructure, can happen."

Belfast Telegraph

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