Construction still stagnating as industry turns its angst on stalled Stormont

Construction in Northern Ireland stagnated for the second quarter running according to the latest RICS/Tughans bulletin
Gary McDonald Business Editor

THE north's construction sector continues to stagnate for the second successive quarter as chartered surveyors become the latest group to turn their angst towards the stalled Stormont.

Respondents in latest quarterly RICS/Tughans construction market survey says weakness in public sector activity has led to the building sector slowdown, with infrastructure, public housing and public-non-housing activity all falling back.

But RICS' spokesman Jim Sammon said: "A lack of investment in infrastructure in Northern Ireland has been a long-standing issue, but anecdotal evidence from chartered surveyors suggests the current political situation is a factor."

Respondents cited the lack of a functioning Executive as a key impediment to construction, impacting on confidence, as well as the availability of funding for projects.

The report says that in the third quarter of the year growth in the north's construction sector lagged significantly behind every other region of the UK (most of which reported steady growth).

Only the private housing and private commercial sectors experienced growth over the summer. Notably, Northern Ireland respondents reported that infrastructure workloads fell for the third quarter in succession.

And surveyors also remain significantly less optimistic than their counterparts in the rest of the UK when it comes to expectations for workloads and profit margins over the next 12 months.

Mr Sammon said that other factors impacting on the local construction sector included uncertainty in relation to Brexit and challenges in the planning process.

Tim Kinney, construction partner at survey sponsors Tughans Solicitors, said it was encouraging that private house-building activity had continued to rise, contributing to housing supply as well as delivering important economic benefits.

"The rise in commercial activity is also encouraging and tallies with the crane count around Belfast," 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.”

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