Business

Shortage of industrial and logistics sites 'stopping new businesses setting up in Northern Ireland'

Amazon's Titanic Quarter warehouse in Belfast. CBRE NI said a severe shortage of similar logistics and industrial sites is preventing new businesses setting up in Northern Ireland. Picture by Niall Carson.

A SIGNIFICANT shortage in industrial and logistics sites in Northern Ireland is stopping new businesses setting up here, and restricting local firms in scaling up, a top property firm has said.

Brian Lavery, managing director at CBRE Northern Ireland, said delays around the planning process has contributed to a shortage of sites and a failure to satisfy the significant demand at present, with many online-based businesses, logistics companies and manufacturers frustrated in their growth plans.

The shortage could also hamper efforts to attract new inward investors seeking to avail of dual market access to the EU and GB markets arising out of the introduction of the post-Brexit protocol.

“We simply can’t facilitate new entrants to the market,” said Mr Lavery.

“That lag is stopping people actually coming to Northern Ireland, so it’s something we have to address.”

The Irish News has learned that Amazon considered locating its massive new Irish warehouse facility in Northern Ireland, before eventually settling on a site Dublin.

Around 500 jobs are expected to be created at the 630,000 sq ft complex at the Baldonnell Business Park.

Amazon will instead build a smaller 75,000 sq ft logistics hub in Portadown with another hub expected to be set up in the north-west.

Mr Lavery said the shortage is also hampering indigenous firms trying to scale up.

“Even entrants that are already there and trying grow, we can’t facilitate that at the moment, so that’s very, very frustrating.”

The property expert said some projects are facing 12 to 18 months to get through the planning process, compared to relatively streamlined process in other parts of the UK, where he said industrial schemes can be green-lit within weeks.

Mr Lavery said the establishment of new enterprise zones with implied planning approval and rates incentives could resolve the issue.

He added that investors are keen to plough money into industrial and warehouse type projects in the north.

“There is a huge amount of institutional money looking for that type of investment and we’re missing it because we’re not getting development out of the ground.”

In a statement, the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) said it is currently reviewing the implementation of the Planning Act (NI) 2011 and working with a cross government planning forum to improve processes around statutory consultation.

"The forum’s work has a particular focus on improving processes and timeframes for processing major and economically significant planning applications," said a DFI spokesman.

"In addition, the department, as part of a collaborative project with 10 councils, will be delivering a new planning IT system next year, which will improve the submission and processing of planning applications.

“Councils also have a key role to play and through the local development plans they have the opportunity to zone land for industrial use.”

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