Development activity in Belfast subdued last year, report finds

Deloitte’s latest regional crane survey showed 20 major schemes were under construction or completed in the city in 2023

There was more subdued construction activity in Belfast city centre last year, with fewer new starts and a slightly lower number of schemes under construction or completed, according to a report by Deloitte.

Still, the Big Four firm’s latest regional crane survey shows the construction of student accommodation, hotels and new residential schemes were the key drivers of development activity in the city.

The report monitors construction activity in Belfast across a range of sectors including offices, residential, hotels, retail, education and student housing, and is seen as a barometer of developer sentiment and future plans.

Now in its eighth year, the annual survey showed that 20 major schemes were under construction or completed in Belfast in 2023, slightly down on the total of 23 recorded in 2022.


In contrast to the nine new projects that broke ground in 2022, there were six significant new starts in 2023, spread across residential, office and hotel projects.

Mel Wilson, director in real estate at Deloitte, said: “While the overall picture is one of more subdued development activity in the city centre, with fewer new starts and a slightly lower number of schemes under construction or completed, there continue to be real signs of confidence in Belfast, with a number of landmark schemes progressing.”

Nine major developments were completed in the city during the year, including four student accommodation schemes which added over 1,000 new student rooms to the total across the city.

A further 774 rooms are due to be completed in 2024 and, based on university forecasts, additional accommodation is expected to be needed in future.

During the year, there were five residential projects under construction, which will create almost 1,000 new homes, compared with a total of just 306 new homes built in the city centre since 2016 across six developments.

The largest of the new schemes is the Loft Lines development in Titanic Quarter, which accounts for 778 of those homes and combines private tenancy with affordable and social housing.

While three office schemes were completed in 2023, there was only one major new office project started during the year, the lowest number since 2016.

Deloitte said this reflected both the move to more flexible working arrangements by employers in the city and the substantial volume of office space that has been released into the market in recent years.

The growing importance of visitors to Belfast city centre was highlighted by new hotel developments, with one completion and two other schemes under construction.

Deloitte also noted in its report that there was a healthy pipeline, with planning permission granted for a further nine hotel schemes in Belfast.

Looking ahead, Deloitte said the most significant development would be the opening of Belfast Grand Central Station to passengers at the end of 2024, with works completing in 2025.

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter