Belfast Telegraph

Pessimism among surveyors as Northern Ireland workloads continue to flatline

RICS spokesman: Jim Sammon
RICS spokesman: Jim Sammon
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

Northern Ireland's surveyors are the gloomiest in the UK as workloads slump in most areas except private housing, according to a report today.

Housebuilding for private buyers was the only part of the local construction sector to report growth during the second quarter of the year, according to the survey by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, which is carried out with law firm Tughans.

Workloads were flat across the board for the fifth quarter in a row during April to June, with some fears that the absence of devolution was holding up spending on big projects. The findings follow last week's Construction Bulletin from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra), which reported a 6% fall in output year on year.

Today's survey said infrastructure workloads and public non-housing workloads face serious challenges, as members indicated that they were getting less work in those areas.

There were less marked declines in the public housing and private industrial sectors.

And activity in the private commercial sector was also flat.

A large number of major commercial projects - including a series of new hotels in Belfast - have been completed, which is likely to be reflected in the industry figures.

And looking ahead, local surveyors were the most pessimistic in the UK, with expectations bleak for both job creation and profits next year.

Jim Sammon, RICS Northern Ireland construction spokesman, said: "While it is encouraging that housebuilding is continuing to grow in Northern Ireland, the picture presented by the survey is somewhat different across the rest of the industry, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, Northern Ireland surveyors are feeling less optimistic about the outlook than they were."

Members were also less likely than those elsewhere in the UK to be concerned about low levels of new entrants to the profession. Tim Kinney, construction partner at Tughans, said: "Those hoping to see evidence of an increase in office, retail and leisure development or further investment in our infrastructure, won't find it in the latest survey.

"A further upturn in housebuilding is certainly to be welcomed, but it really is the only bright spot in an otherwise challenging environment, which is being exacerbated by the lack of decision-making to push forward key infrastructure projects.

"The latest official construction output statistics point to a worrying decline in government spending, with £590.1m of new public sector work in 2017, compared with £641.8m in 2016.

"In the first quarter of 2018, output decreased by 6.5% compared with Q4 2017 and was 6.1% lower compared with the same quarter in 2017," he added.

Belfast Telegraph