Everyone agrees that the Assembly should do all it can to alleviate the current crisis in the construction sector.

At present developers are penalised if they build or refurbish properties because vacant rates become payable after 3 months at 50% of the normal level – this is, in effect, a tax on construction and jobs.

Vacant rates make it even more difficult for developers to raise finance to undertake projects in the current climate.  Look around Belfast’s skyline – no new cranes have appeared for the past year and others sit ideal above stalled schemes.

Nick Rose suggests “the answer is simple and completely within the Assembly’s power – introduce a 3 year vacant rates holiday for new commercial buildings and refurbishments.

Will it work?  It is not a magic bullet but it will help, particularly if banks start to be banks again and lend money to the many companies out there who want to develop the vacant sites and buildings we all see around the City Centre and create jobs in the process.

I appreciate that many banks are looking to reduce their exposure to the property sector but now is without doubt the safest time in living memory to lend to the property sector.  We are bouncing along the bottom of the cycle and there is only one way that property values can go and that is up.”