NI '˜least optimistic' about construction progress

Private industrial and housebuilding grew in Northern Ireland in the first three months of the year, but surveyors in the sector remain the least optimistic across the whole of the UK.

RICS spokesman Jim Sammon
RICS spokesman Jim Sammon

That’s the finding of the latest NI Construction & Infrastructure Market Survey from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and law firm Tughans.

Although the survey reports growth in private industrial workloads for the first time in two years alongside a rise in housebuilding, overall construction workloads continued to edge upwards albeit at the weakest rate in the UK.

At the same time, growth in the private commercial sector saw a small rise in the three-month period, according to the net balance of Northern Ireland respondents.

However the public sector proved a tougher area with public non-housing respondents failing to report any growth in over a year while the net balance fell in the public housing sector. The infrastructure sector also saw a fall in workloads, according to the survey.

Whilst the net balance of respondents expects workloads and employment to increase in the next 12 months, the net balances are the lowest of all UK regions, the province is also the only region of the UK where, on balance, profit margins are expected to be lower in a year.

“It is encouraging that housebuilding is continuing to grow and that the private industrial sector is at last showing some improvement,” said Jim Sammon, RICS NI construction spokesman.

“Our respondents are continuing to point to the political situation as an impediment to growing construction workloads and we really need some progress on the political front to improve both confidence levels and investment.”

Michael McCord, head of construction at Tughans said: “It’s good news to see a further upturn in house building workloads and in private commercial and private industrial property.

“It’s disappointing to see a fall in infrastructure workloads but as much of this work is publicly funded it’s perhaps not surprising we are in this situation while we have no functioning Executive to push forward key infrastructure projects.”