The Dermont Group has unveiled plans for a residential development construction scheme which could see up to 900 houses built in Northern Ireland in the next four years.
The project was being seen today as a welcome sign of confidence in the depressed property market and as a boost for the hard-pressed construction sector.
The company behind the scheme is a newly formed Northern Ireland consortium called Dermont Group, a joint venture between Donegall Place Investments and the McGinnis Group.
Dermont is making its move after buying up land belonging to debt-ridden Belfast-based construction firm Taggart Holdings, which went into administration last year.
Spokesman for PricewaterhouseCoopers, administrators for Taggart Holdings, and for Dermont both declined to put a price on the land deal.
Taggart Holdings originally bought the four plots of land — totalling 87 acres — from developer Fred Fraser at the height of the property boom in 2006. Dermont said it intended to start work on 500 houses — at Dundonald — next month in the initial phase of a £92m construction project.
Donegall Place Investments is owned by Pat McCormack and Michael Herbert, and among the properties in the company’s portfolio are Bloomfield shopping centre in Bangor and Bow Street Mall in Lisburn.
The McGinnis Group is run by John McGinnis, from the North West, and has been involved in several major public sector school building projects.
Dermont said the four sites all had planning permission for houses, and said the construction phase would provide employment for up to 400 building workers.
The venture, supported by Bank of Ireland, involves 500 houses at Dundonald, 220 at Cairnshill in south Belfast and more than 100 at sites in Carryduff and Coleraine.
Professor Alistair Adair, head of the University of Ulster’s real estate initiative, said the development could be a sign that the property market was starting to recover.
“This announcement gives a welcome boost to the housing sector as the market begins to show signs of recovery,” he said.
“This venture is a good example of how developers and financiers can work together to stimulate the first time buyer market which is essential to the successful rejuvenation of the property sector.”
Dermont director Pat McCormack said the investment was made because it believed prices were at a point where people had confidence to re-enter the market.
Taggarts administrator Garth Calow of PwC said: “The sites within this land bank are in prime residential locations and in the past were the subject of considerable interest from potential developers and investors.
“This sale will make a positive contribution to stimulating activity in the local house building and residential property markets.”
Michael Hopkins, partner at McKibbin Commercial, agents and advisors to Dermont Group, said: “This investment sends a very powerful signal to the marketplace that now the time is right to end the fear.”