Fred Fraser: The hardball businessman who built and built
Fred Fraser couldn’t build houses quick enough. The multi-millionaire businessman who gifted Iris Robinson with £25,000, established himself as Northern Ireland’s biggest property developer by covering huge swathes of green with bricks and mortar over three decades.
Described as a ruthless businessman who always played hardball, the Co Down father-of-three, who died in August 2008 weeks after writing his controversial cheque for Kirk McCambley, often courted controversy with his massive greenfield |developments and repeated calls for relaxations in planning restrictions. Environmentalists branded him the “mighty over-developer”.
Despite recessions in the 1980s and early 1990s, Fred Fraser’s six different companies boomed. They built thousands of houses in areas like north Belfast and Londonderry. But it was Castlereagh with which his name was synonymous. He transformed areas like Dundonald, Cairnshill and Carryduff with huge modern housing developments of semi-detached starter homes that changed the landscape permanently.
In 1980 Fred Fraser launched the so-called ‘economy house’ — a 570sq ft semi-detached two-bedroom bungalow selling for around £16,500 — a stark contrast to his own mock Tudor mansion in an exclusive area of Holywood which was so big he refused to divulge its size.
“I really don’t know. How can you tell in a property like this,” he told a Sunday Life reporter while posing on a white |
Lamborghini with a glass of champagne.
Although Mr Fraser rarely attended council meetings where his developments would have been discussed, he made sure he was well represented at any meetings of the Planning Appeals Commission, hiring one of the country’s top QCs and renowned planning consultants to argue his cases.
There was also another side to Fred Fraser. He was a much-loved family man who raised thousands of pounds for local charities. At one lavish party in 1990, where there was a synchronised swimming display in his private pool, he helped raise money for the Royal National Institute for the Blind.
Following his death property tycoon Eric Cairns told the Belfast Telegraph he would be remembered as a tough character within Northern Ireland's property industry.
“I used to say to him that the softest thing about him was his teeth,” he said. “If he got the bit between his teeth he didn't let go — he fought his corner and he fought it very successfully.”