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Property firm’s victory over apartment buyer

A property company has won its legal battle against a buyer who decided to pull the plug on an apartment sale.

The High Court has announced that Big Picture Developments, owned by Policing Board chairman Barry Gilligan, does not have to pay back Stephen McKenna the deposit he put down for an apartment in The Bakery on the Ormeau Road.

Mr McKenna has also been given six weeks to pay the £391,000 balance on his purchase.

As the action taken against Big Picture Developments was dismissed by consent, it also emerged that 70% of deals for flats at the iconic Ormeau Bakery site are now on the verge of completion.

Another three cases brought by the company over uncompleted contracts on some of the 156 high-specification apartments were also resolved yesterday.

Legal sources close to the case disclosed that around 70 of the 100 flats released in the first phase are now either close to completion or have already completed. Writs were initially issued last year against dozens of clients who booked flats at the showpiece south Belfast development.

Since then, however, the number of outstanding cases has steadily diminished as purchases were pushed through.

The case is one of a number of legal actions which focuses on property bought at the height of Northern Ireland's housing boom.

Apartments at ‘The Bakery’ were snapped up when they went on sale in 2007.

The development was built with a unique courtyard specially designed by celebrity gardener Diarmuid Gavin. Other features include a glass bridge and gym.

But plummeting property prices over the last two years have been blamed for the difficulties which led to legal action being undertaken. Many homes built at the peak of the boom are now worth less than the original selling price, leaving some banks reluctant to agree mortgages.

The situation means those unable to find the money for property they agreed to could lose big deposits or face a claim for the total cost.

Following the latest settlements, a spokesman for Big Picture Developments said: “We continue to be pleased with the progress being made in buyers fulfilling their contractual obligations for apartments at the Ormeau Bakery.”

It comes just a week after PBN Property won its case against four buyers who failed to fulfil their contract to buy apartments in Woodland Manor, south Belfast.

The buyers have agreed to pay for the difference in the value of the properties and pay the company's legal costs plus full losses. A spokesperson for PBN Property said: “We are happy to see these actions reach a successful conclusion.”

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