Belfast Telegraph

Developers bid to ease home-buyers’ fears as Co Antrim building firm collapses

The Hazelbank Hall development
The Hazelbank Hall development
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

Buyers of new homes being built by a Co Antrim construction company which has gone into administration have been urged to contact the developers' solicitors with any questions.

Dixons Contractors, which is based in Dunloy, went into administration on Thursday, putting the jobs of up to 90 people at risk.

The family company is also thought to have around 150 sub-contractors on its books, which include other firms as well as tradesmen.

It's understood there had been trading difficulties at the business for some time, with staff at up to 15 building sites stood down last week.

It's believed the business had debts of around £5m.

The company was involved in many prestigious housing schemes across Northern Ireland, including Hazelbank Hall in Newtownabbey, where houses have an asking price of around £380,000.

Its website lists eight active housing development sites, including a new one at Park Avenue Heights in sought-after Belmont in east Belfast.

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Homes on the sites are listed for sale off-plan - so that they can be reserved by a buyer before they are fully built. Deposits of £500 are usually required to reserve homes before they are built and it's expected that any deposits paid would be refundable.

One figure in the building industry said: "In this case I understand the houses will be completed and no purchasers should lose out."

A spokeswoman for Colin Graham Residential, which was carrying out sales on the Hazelbank Hall development in Newtownabbey, said that while Dixons had been carrying out the building work, another firm was the main developer of the site.

The agency said: "As a prudent developer, the developer of the site has proactively sought advice and is taking steps to ensure as little disruption as possible on site.

"Any purchaser with a specific query should direct that query to the developer's solicitors."

Professor Alastair Adair, deputy vice chancellor at Ulster University and head of its built environment research institute, said a "legal minefield" awaits the administrators who have been appointed to sort out the affairs of the company.

During the economic crash in the Republic, the large numbers of builders going out of business meant that many housing developments were left unfinished, giving rise to so-called 'ghost estates'.

But Prof Adair said that was unlikely to materialise in this case.

"It's a very different market here now compared to what happened back them," he said. "The housing market in Northern Ireland is much healthier, and particularly the market for new homes, so hopefully a new contractor will be able to step in."

But he said there would be concerns for many people involved in the business in the meantime. "This will be having an adverse impact on employees, and they will want to know what their position is going forward, as they will also have their own liabilities," he said.

One insolvency lawyer said that the company's work in progress could be sold on, and in the developments where Dixons was carrying out building work on behalf of a developer, another builder could be brought on site.

Business advisory firm EY - which was appointed as administrators of the company - was not available for comment at the time of going to press.

Belfast Telegraph