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Estate agents Templeton Robinson closes Belfast Ormeau branch

One of the biggest names in property in Northern Ireland is to close one of its five offices as an "exceptionally bad" market continues to take its toll.

Templeton Robinson said the economic climate had led to the closure of its branch on Ormeau Road, Belfast, where four people are employed.

The firm employed around 65 people at the peak of the housing market but there are now around 40 staff working in four offices on Belfast's Lisburn Road and in Bangor, Holywood and Ballyhackamore in the east of the city.

Plans to open a Lisburn office were shelved.

Partner Patrick Palmer said: "As a separate entity and company the Ormeau Road office wasn't commercially viable."

He denied a suggestion that the overall business was in difficulties.

"We have four other offices which are at the present time trading not exceptionally well, but well enough," added Mr Palmer.

Mr Palmer claimed there was "a light at the end of the tunnel" for the residential market after four years of falling prices.

At their peak around August 2007 the average house price was £240,408 but in the first quarter of 2011 it was £143,918. Transactions have also fallen.

Mr Palmer said that since April, "things have very much picked up and certainly there are more sales out there".

It is not clear whether the four staff in its Ormeau Road office will be redeployed or made redundant.

Mr Palmer said: "All companies have to make tough decisions. It's part of the economic climate and part of the time we are in.

"The market has been like this for four years - exceptionally bad. But we are still very much a viable business.

"We battled and battled to keep the Ormeau Road office."

In December, UK estate agents Reeds Rains closed offices in Comber and Cregagh Road and centralised operations in its Lisburn Road branch and Newtownards. BTWCairns also closed an office in Ballyhackamore and cut staff levels after buying Eric Cairns partnership in 2007.

Along with Ulster Property Sales (UPS) and BTWCairns, Templeton Robinson is one of the 'big three' estate agents in Northern Ireland.

It was founded in 1994 by Keith Mitchell, Beth Robinson and Dennis Templeton with an office in the Lisburn Road, Belfast.