Encouragingly, in Q4 2022 underlying project-starts and detailed planning approvals improved against the previous year. Main contract awards performed poorly against both the previous year and preceding quarter.
Northern Ireland overview
While underlying (less than £100m in value) work starting on-site during Q4 2022 fell 28 per cent against the preceding quarter on a seasonally adjusted (SA) basis, the value increased 72% per cent compared with 2021 levels to total £346m. No major projects (£100m or more in value), commenced on-site during the period, remaining unchanged against the previous year but a decrease on the preceding quarter. Overall, the value of project-starts in Northern Ireland fell 59 per cent compared with the preceding quarter.
Underlying contract awards added up to £224m, a 37 per cent (SA) decrease against the preceding quarter and a 41 per cent decline compared with 2021 levels. No major projects reached the contract awarded stage during the period, differing from the previous year but remaining unchanged on the preceding quarter. Due to this, the total value of contract awards fell 54 per cent compared with the previous year.
Totalling £980m, underlying detailed planning approvals in Northern Ireland decreased 6 per cent (SA) against the preceding quarter but increased 87 per cent compared with the same period a year ago. No major projects were granted approval, remaining unchanged on the previous year but differing from the preceding quarter.
Sector analysis: project starts
Education accounted for 23 per cent of work starting on-site in Northern Ireland during Q4 2022, with the sector experiencing a four-digit increase against the previous year to total £80m. The commencement of the new £33m ‘New Down High School’ in Downpatrick was primarily the reason behind strong growth for the sector.
Private housing project-starts, accounting for 20 per cent of the total value, increased 31 per cent compared with a year ago to total £68m. Hotel & Leisure (+1103 per cent) and offices (+372 per cent) also experienced good periods compared with 2021 levels to total £36m and £11m respecitvely. However, some sectors performed poorly including social housing which, at £19m, experienced a 58 per cent decline compared with a year earlier to account for a 6 per cent share of the total value.
Value of project starts in Northern Ireland during Q4 2022 by sector
|Sector||Value of Project-Starts (£m)||Change on previous year||Change on two years ago||%Share|
|Hotel & Leisure||36||1103%||110%||10%|
|Community & Amenity||7||12%||392%||2%|
Sector analysis: detailed planning approvals
Private housing at £476m was the most active sector for detailed planning approvals during Q4 2022, accounting for almost half (49 per cent) of the total value. The value of private housing consents increased 77 per cent against 2021 levels, being boosted by the approval of a £59.5m, 525-unit residential development in Antrim. Utilities accounted for 12 per cent share of project approvals during the period, with the sector experiencing the sharpest (+921 per cent ) growth against 2021 levels to total £120m.
Retail approvals also experienced strong growth, rising 337 per cent compared with a year earlier to total £116m. The sector accounted for more than a tenth (12 per cent) of the total value of approvals during the period. In contrast, education detailed planning approvals fell 76 per cent compared with a year ago to total £10m, accounting for just 1 per cent of the total value.
Value of detailed planning approvals in Northern Ireland during Q4 2022 by sector
|Sector||Value of Project-Approvals (£m)||Change on previous year||Change on two years ago||%Share|
|Hotel & Leisure||63||499%||319%||6%|
|Community & Amenity||17||138%||-33%||2%|
Forecast construction starts for Northern Ireland
|Underlying project-starts (£m)||Change on previous year|
|Quarter 1, 2021||413||20%|
|Quarter 2, 2021||254||45%|
|Quarter 3, 2021||276||7%|
|Quarter 4, 2021||201||52%|
|Quarter 1, 2022||413||0%|
|Quarter 2, 2022||484||90%|
|Quarter 3, 2022||621||125%|
|Quarter 4, 2022 p||337||68%|
|Quarter 1, 2023 f||402||-3%|
|Quarter 2, 2023 f||378||-22%|
|Quarter 3, 2023 f||405||-35%|
|Quarter 4, 2023 f||383||14%|
|Quarter 1, 2024 f||431||7%|
|Quarter 2, 2024 f||406||7%|
|Quarter 3, 2024 f||421||4%|
|Quarter 4, 2024 f||390||2%|
Note: Underlying projects are schemes with a construction value of £250,000 to £100 million. Forecast updated in October 2022 p – provisional, f – forecast. Source: Glenigan
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In December 2022, Northern Ireland will be a hub of construction activity. With numerous infrastructure projects planned, the opportunities for investment into the region have never been greater.
The Northern Irish government is committed to investing £80 million in construction and engineering projects over the next year. This figure is expected to rise as the country works to improve its infrastructure, with a particular focus on transportation, health and education.
The most notable of the projects currently being undertaken is the Belfast City Centre Regeneration Scheme. This massive project involves the redevelopment of Belfast’s historic docks, in order to create new waterfront spaces for residents and visitors alike. As part of this project, the government is investing £22 million in the creation of housing, leisure and retail developments, while ensuring that they remain in line with the city’s heritage buildings.
In addition to this, a number of road infrastructure projects are being instigated. The British Government has committed £600 million towards improving transport links across the region, with a particular focus on creating safer and more efficient roadways. This includes the upgrade of key motorways, including the M2, the A1 and the M3, as well as the rollout of Intelligent Transport Systems to reduce congestion.
Finally, Northern Ireland is also investing heavily in energy projects. The Department of the Environment is overseeing a range of investments into renewable energy projects, with the aim of ensuring that Northern Ireland is powered by clean and sustainable sources of energy. This includes the construction of solar farms and wind turbines, as well as the installation of energy storage units to capture and store electricity.
With such a wide range of construction projects underway, December 2022 is sure to be an exciting time in Northern Ireland. With so much potential for investment, there has never been a better time to explore the opportunities available to those looking to work in the region.