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Receiver takes over McAlister properties

A Co Antrim property developer who wanted to build Ireland's tallest skyscraper has had two housing sites put into receivership.

Anglo Irish Bank has appointed a receiver to two sites owned by McAlister Construction at Greenhall Highway in Coleraine and Dunlady Road in Dundonald.

The company is part of the wider McAlister Holdings group, run by Mervyn McAlister from Ballycastle.

Mr McAlister was behind the planned £90m Aurora skyscraper development in Belfast city centre.

Planners initially turned down the 37-storey building in January 2009, sparking a political row in which then Environment Minister Sammy Wilson accused his own planners of behaving "abysmally".

The Aurora was to stand 28 metres taller than the current tallest building in Belfast - the Obel - and was to include almost 300 apartments and 7,000 sq ft of commercial space. The proposed site on Great Victoria Street is now a temporary car park.

An appeal lodged by Mr McAlister is due to be heard next month. Yesterday calls to the firm's Belfast office were not being answered, while in Ballycastle, Mr McAlister was not available.

All of Mr McAlister's other companies are continuing to trade.

McAlister Holdings, based at the Lesley Building in Belfast and an office in Ballycastle, was once producing an average of 80-100 housing units per year, and almost four years ago had projected a target output of 1,000 units per year by 2009.

Late last year Mr McAlister announced he was temporarily closing his Ballycastle hotel, the Marine. The 25 staff were given two days' notice in December and were told that the complex would re-open in March.

The news follows revelations in recent weeks about other property developers experiencing financial difficulties in the wake of the property crash.

Co Tyrone developer Peter Dolan, who formed the Jermon group of companies in 1997, saw Jermon Limited go into administration last week.

And the Carvill Group - behind the multi-million pound revamp of the Sirocco site in Belfast - announced recently it was seeking a voluntary arrangement with creditors in a bid to survive.