House building drives uplift in construction activity

Bangor Academy and sixth form centre is an example of a well-established PPP project
Bangor Academy and sixth form centre is an example of a well-established PPP project

The Stormont executive should explore as a matter of urgency establishing Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) to rebuild and expand the crumbling infrastructure in the province.

Thats the claim made by professional body the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors as it published its latest construction market survey in conjunction with law firm Tughans.

Although it reports a rise in activity within the construction sector, the survey underlines to continuing deficit bewteen the province and the rest of the UK.

House building drove the overall increase in workloads (+22), with Northern Ireland surveyors reporting big rises in private and public house building in the quarter.

There was also an increase reported in private commercial activity and a small rise in private industrial work.

However, surveyors said that infrastructure and public non-housing activity fell significantly in the April-to-June period, compared to the previous quarter, with Northern Ireland the only UK region where there was a decline reported in these sub-sectors.

“Investing in infrastructure is a crucial part of rebalancing and growing the economy,” said RICS NI spokesman Jim Sammon.

“We need better roads and railways, schools, hospitals, and energy infrastructure to meet our sustainable energy needs.”

Against a backdrop of ageing infrastructure in need of replacement he said: “we would strongly encourage the policy makers to take a strategic view in relation to where best public money should be spent to make the most positive impact for the economy and society.”

“Government also has an important role to play in creating the right conditions for private sector investment.

“Research supports Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) as an additional viable solution to the current infrastructure investment deficit.

“The PPP model has been increasingly advocated in response to the infrastructure investment challenge since the global financial crisis.”

The overall workload balance for Northern Ireland in the latest survey was +22, rising from +8 in the first quarter of the year and the balance of surveyors (+38) expect their workloads to be higher looking 12 months ahead.

Michael McCord, construction partner with Tughans said: “There is no doubt that local construction businesses remain very dependent on the GB market for work, and that activity within Northern Ireland itself continues to lag other parts of the UK.”