Planning application figures down
Plummeting land prices, a lack of appetite for new-builds and a cumbersome process have been blamed for a drop in the number of planning applications in Northern Ireland.
Official figures show an 11% fall from 3,263 to 2,892 submitted plans during the third quarter of 2012/13.
Applications for residential development were worst hit, experiencing a 16% decline from 1,779 to 1,499 compared with last year, according to figures published by the Department of Environment (DoE) in the latest Quarterly Development Management Bulletin.
John Armstrong, managing director of the Construction Employers Federation, said the Executive must take urgent action to tackle the issue.
He said: "The overall decline in planning applications is a reflection of the broader problems facing the local economy. The greater fall in residential planning applications is down to the fact that the housing market is still very flat.
"Whilst house prices are now affordable and transactions are really picking up, many people are still struggling to get a mortgage. The Executive now needs to have a clear focus on facilitating an increase in the number of new houses being built.
"New private housing output in quarter three 2012 was one-fifth of the volume recorded at the peak in quarter one, 2007. This collapse has had a devastating impact on the local economy."
Jeff McLaughlin from Ballymoney-based McLaughlin Building Contracts said consumer confidence was at a record low.
He said: "People have no confidence and the banks are not being co-operative. People are opting to upgrade their homes at a cost of about £15,000 to £20,000 hoping for better things in the future instead of spending £40,000 or £50,000 on a site and then building a new one."
Peter Cole, from Robinhill Construction in Greenisland, said: "The construction industry is stagnant. Even if the banks would lend funds to property developers - which is the first tier of funding required - there is a lack of appetite for new houses. The value issue for homes has been addressed but there is a severe lack of mortgage product (second tier of funding) available to home buyers."