'Once in a generation' crisis hitting construction sector

A shortfall in building supplies is being described as a "once in a generation" crisis by the body representing Northern Ireland's construction industry.

Lockdowns across the globe last year, coupled with a shortage of raw materials are having an impact on prices.

It's been estimated the value of timber alone has rocketed by around 80 percent in the past year.

Andrew Gilliland, of Carryduff Building Supplies, told UTV: "We are really struggling to obtain supplies. Most things that you find in a typical builders yard are hard to come by at the moment."

Mr Gilliand says his company is attempting to bulk buy, if products are available.

Demand for materials remains high, with construction in some parts of the United Kingdom experiencing a boom, but even basic household products are continuing to rise in cost.

"Six months ago what people would be paying for the price of a fencing board is maybe double what they would have paid in January," according to Andrew Gilliland.

This means the pricing of work by tradespeople and builders is becoming more difficult.   The Construction Employers Federation says "once in a generation" cost increases are being exacerbated by the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Mark Spence, the federation's managing director, suggests about one in five GB based suppliers are no longer providing material to Northern Ireland.

Mr Spence says around one in three contractors are fearful of going into financial difficulties, especially those who have already priced yet to commence public sector contracts. 

"In government contracts the price is fixed when you tender it and that might be ok for something you're buying today and delivering tomorrow. 

"It's not ok when you're building something that maybe takes two years and the prices have risen in that time for reasons out of your control," according to Mr Spence.

The CEF is waiting for a final paper from Stormont's Department of Finance which it believes will bridge the gap for contractors and help them with additional costs.