Belfast Telegraph

From penthouse to basement, developers are feeling the pain

By Margaret Canning

Fresh developments in the long-running saga of the Taggart group of companies are a timely reminder of just how long the present economic downturn has been dragging on for.

The company was first put into administration in October 2008 in one of the first big shocks to the Northern Ireland property and corporate worlds.

It seemed unthinkable that a man who could win a coveted and credible title like the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year one year, could be facing business ruin the next.

Yet few would have thought that 28 months later, we would still be writing about the downturn and counting the cost for property firms, in particular.

Last week it emerged that the Carvill Group was in discussions with its creditors, while Jermon Limited, landlord for several key properties in Belfast city centre, went into administration at the beginning of this week.

As the scriptwriters for HBO's new gangster-themed TV series Boardwalk Empire might say, 'what gives?'

John Armstong, head of the Construction Employers' Federation and the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors have called for faster processing of important planning applications, and for banks to be more generous with mortgage finance so that more houses can be sold to first-time buyers.

However, in an increasingly bleak landscape for building firms, it's unlikely that either wishes will be granted.

Meanwhile, Allen & Overy's decision to move back-office functions to Belfast suggests that Northern Ireland could be becoming a centre for outsourcing.

That's a development few would have predicted - and also begs the question what the next couple of years has in store.