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Planning pipeline and construction starts

The Construction Information Services’ Q1 2020 Construction Activity Report provides an insight into the residential planning pipeline and the number of starts in residential construction, with apartment building growth pace outstripping that of housing growth.

Planning permissions granted in the residential construction sector showed a 14 per cent year-on-year increase in the first quarter of 2020 in terms of projects passed; this was coupled with an astounding 184 per cent increase in the number of residential units proposed for development, with 16,790 units passed altogether.

326 projects were proposed in Q1 2020, with a total value of €3.54 billion. 6,281 housing scheme units were granted planning permission, a 72 per cent rise on Q1 2019, while the granting of planning permission for 10,510 apartments was a 366.6 per cent growth. There was significant growth in the granting of permission for one and two-bedroom apartments, which totalled 9,882 units. Nine of the 326 projects granted planning permission over the quarter were estimated to be worth over €100 million.

However, a regional breakdown of these planning permissions shows a vast imbalance throughout the State, with the eastern and midlands region accounting for 85 per cent of the overall value and Dublin alone accounting for 64 per cent. The southern region accounts for just 11 per cent, while the western and northern region makes up the remaining 4 per cent.

In the eastern and midlands region, 177 of the projects are accounted for, a 31 per cent yearly regional increase, covering 14,050 units, a 319 per cent increase. The largest development in the region outside of Dublin to be granted planning permission is the 661-unit €130 million housing project in Rathmullan, County Meath.

In the southern region, project numbers are down 1 per cent yearly to 110, with a 6 per cent decrease in units to 2,066. Planning permissions for houses saw a 25 per cent decrease, while apartment permissions rose by 270 per cent to 530 units. The largest of these projects is the 217-unit development at Crann Ard in Clonmel, County Tipperary.

The number of projects in the northern and western region fell by 3 per cent to 39, but overall units were up 90 per cent to 668. While Donegal accounts for 40 per cent of these planning permissions, the rate has slowed further in Galway city and county, which suffered its own yearly fall of 8 per cent to just 179 units. The largest of the region’s projects is an €11.4 million 91-unit development in Sligo.

In terms of project starts for Q1 2020, the number of projects was down 15 per cent to 137, but the number of units within those projects was up 6 per cent to 6,127. This represented a total overall value of €967 million, a 4 per cent yearly rise. Housing unit starts fell by 29 per cent to 3,360, while apartment build starts rose 160 per cent to 2,770.

The largest of these projects was a €94 million 550-unit mixture of houses and apartments in Baldoyle. One and two-beds continued their rise in prominence, with 1,714 two-beds and 685 one-beds started, but there has been a significant fall in social housing, with only 259 units across 18 projects started in the quarter.

At the regional level, Kildare (558) and Louth (472) have seen the largest amount of unit starts outside of Dublin within the eastern and midlands region, which saw 4,963 starts overall. The southern region saw a 55 per cent yearly decrease in the number of units started and a 33 per cent decrease in the number of projects. Both the number of projects and units increased in the northern and western region despite a 6 per cent fall in the value of those projects. Worryingly, starts in the northern and western region also show an over 50 per cent fall in public housing investment, now down to just €8 million.