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construction in Northern Ireland

Construction in Northern Ireland continues to suffer from the collapse in the power sharing agreement at Stormont but positive signs are emerging at an underlying level.

In the three months to April 2018, Glenigan’s construction market analysis shows that the underlying value of construction project starts edged up 5%.

Glenigan’s economics director Allan Wilén said: “We recorded a 36% fall in the underlying value of starts in 2017 and while this year will see a rebound due to the low base, next year is expected to see a return to negative territory unless the political impasse can be broken.”

Although housing starts in the province were flat in 2017 according to the National House-Building Council, housebuilding and private industrial construction drove industry output in the Q1 2018 according to research from Tughans and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

RICS Northern Ireland Construction spokesman Jim Sammon said: “An increase in occupier demand for commercial property as shown in the most recent RICS Commercial Market Survey could be one of the reasons behind this growth in construction activity in the private industrial sector.”

More office space needed?

Research from Savills from the last quarter of 2017 showed take-up of office space was back to pre-crash levels with 430,290 square foot of space occupied last year.

Rents are 50% higher than 10 years previously but Simon McEvoy of Savills Northern Ireland warns: “The supply of new Grade A offices remains the limiting factor.”

Last year, four of the nine landmark schemes to start construction in Belfast were office projects according to Deloitte. However, almost half of the office space under construction is refurbishment of old buildings.

Deloitte’s 2018 Crane Survey for Belfast showed 25 schemes under construction in 2017 with 22 landmark developments expected to complete this year.

More than 1,000 new hotel rooms will be added across eight hotels in Belfast. Plans for 5,500 new student accommodation units have been approved by the city council since 2015.

Deloitte expects this work to slow as demand is met.

More big construction projects are in the pipeline such as Richland Group’s One Bankmore Square office development in Belfast, which is expected to start on site next year. This scheme is one of eight in Northern Ireland being promoted by the Department for International Trade to try and attract investment.

The DTI is promoting a total of 68 UK investment schemes worth more than £30 billion to overseas investors and the Northern Ireland projects, all in Belfast, have a value of just over £1.5 billion (see table).

Northern Ireland Construction Projects supported by DTI

Smaller construction projects moving on site

Glenigan’s construction market analysis suggests this development pipeline of major projects is proving slow to move on to site as the number of contracts awarded is falling.

In the 12 months to Q1 2018, Glenigan identified 316 construction contracts valued at £250,000 as being awarded. This is a drop of 15% compared to the preceding 12 months.

The total value of these latest construction awards was just under £1.2 billion. Compared to the previous 12 months, the latest orders total is down 10% and size of the average award in the most recent period has shrunk to £3.8 million from £4.4 million.

The biggest spending construction clients in the province over this period were both from the public sector.

The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety and Belfast City Council both let £65 million-worth of construction work, which illustrates the need for greater private sector investment.

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