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Northern Ireland’s construction industry is on the up as the economy shows greater resilience than the mainland.

In the three months to the end of August 2023, the underlying value of construction project starts in Northern Ireland rose 23% compared to the preceding three months according to Glenigan’s construction market research.

The retail sector was a particularly bright spot with starts rising 61% against the previous quarter, boosted by schemes including the £15 million Lakelands Retail and Leisure Park in Enniskillen (Project ID: 19432537).

Research and education

The research and education sectors also look strong with major projects starting to come on stream, such as a £50 million forensic science scheme at Carrickfergus (Project ID: 23086374). The client, Forensic Science Northern Ireland, asked contractors to express an interest by the end of August in the work, which should start next summer.

Elsewhere, Henry Brothers start work at the end of this year on a £30.2 million Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre at Newtownabbey in County Antrim (Project ID: 22233843). The AMIC is being developed by Queen’s University Belfast and comprises a 10,500 sq m industry-led research centre.

Work will also start at the end of this year on a £58.7 million Shared Education Campus at Ballycastle High School, where Heron Bros will carry out the construction (Project ID: 17280392)

Top contractors

Graham is the most successful contractor in Northern Ireland. In the 12 months to the end of August 2023, the company won £89.3 million-worth of work. This includes major schemes such as The Loft Lines (pictured), which is a development of 778 flats in Belfast that Graham started work on this summer (Project ID: 21044662)

Northern Ireland – Top 10 contractors September 2022 to August 2023

Contractor Number of Projects Civil (£m) Building (£m) Total (£m)
Graham 4 8.3 80.9 89.2
MJ McBride 3 0.0 75.0 75.0
Heron Bros 4 0.0 72.6 72.6
Henry Brothers 3 0.0 65.5 65.5
DB Building Contracts 4 0.0 56.2 56.2
FP McCann 12 42.4 9.0 51.4
Martin & Hamilton 8 0.0 37.8 37.8
BSG Property Services 4 33.8 0.5 34.3
Peter O’Hare 3 0.0 26.1 26.1
Piperhill 5 0.0 20.7 20.7


Source: Glenigan

Residential work is also bolstering the order books of other leading contractors in the province. MJ McBride is ranked second with work including the £30 million St Patricks Barracks development of 140 townhouses and flats and a leisure centre in Ballymena (Project ID: 17404458).

Housing boost

The housing market in Northern Ireland often runs contrary to Great Britain and house prices rose by 1.4% between the first and second quarter of this year despite many other parts of the United Kingdom suffering falls.

This resilience is prompting developers to push residential schemes through the pipeline and Glenigan’s research has identified a swathe of proposals entering the planning system.

In August, Faristone Construction submitted a detailed planning application for the £60 million Bessbrook Mill scheme at Newry in County Down, which proposes 214 flats, 58 townhouses plus offices and shops (Project ID: 20218317). Work could start in March if the application is successful.

Sustar also submitted a detailed planning application in August for its £60 million proposal for 248 homes in Craigavon with a start pencilled in for next Autumn (Project ID: 23261629).

Fraser Homes has submitted outline plans for 675 homes in its Ballyreagh Village development at Newtonards and hopes to start next spring (Project ID: 20134127), while housing association Clanmil has secured backing for a £100 million plan to build 1,400 homes at various sites over the next four years (Project ID: 22374182).


With a host of projects in various sectors moving through the procurement pipeline, this should help sustain the uptick in the province’s construction industry.

Glenigan customers can see details of all construction opportunities in Northern Ireland if covered by your subscription.

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