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Ulster University: Department for the Economy committed to Belfast complex schedule despite latest delays


Ulster University’s new campus in Belfast city centre

Ulster University’s new campus in Belfast city centre

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Ulster University’s new campus in Belfast city centre

The Department for the Economy said it remains committed to overseeing the opening of a new multi million pound city centre complex for Ulster University on time despite reports of further delays to the build.

The cost of the Cathedral Quarter build, which has been due to open for students in 2018 but has already been delayed until next year, has rocketed by 43% over the original plan, now said to be coming in at around £363.9m.

And the Irish News has reported some 100 workers have walked off the site in a row between electrical subcontractors and the main site Portuguese contractors Somague, part of Spanish based global construction company Sacyr Group.

Work is continuing on the project, which is the largest venture of its kind in Northern Ireland and Ulster University said some students and staff should be welcomed into the new campus this year.

The first phase of the project is already complete and open.

When completed, many courses will be transferred from Jordanstown, a move which will see student and staff numbers in the city will rise by 15,000.

Although traditionally associated with art, the campus spans an increasing range of subjects including architecture, hospitality, event management, photography and digital animation.

Work was paused on the construction for four months in 2018 when Lagan Construction Group and Portuguese-based Somague were the joint-venture partners.

When Lagan hit financial trouble in early 2018, workers from all the firms involved, including subcontractors, downed tools. Accountancy firm KPMG was appointed as administrators to four companies within the Lagan group.

At that time to Ulster University said it was “absolute nonsense” that the project was looking at a five year delay on completion.

There are about 45 other companies currently working across the site.

It is understood that the most recent issue concerns a group of electrical subcontractors, Dowds Group which has been on-site since July 2019.

A spokesperson for Dowds Group confirmed it is “in the process of resolving issues with Saycr and are looking forward to a speedy and successful resolution.”

Ulster University said it would be “inappropriate to comment” as the delivery of the project is the responsibility under contract of Somague/Sacyr.

“The university is fully up to date on the agreed payment schedule to Somague/Sacyr,” the university added.

“Work had progressed at speed throughout 2020/21 and the building programme provided by Somague/Sacyr is currently on track to welcome staff and students to a vibrant city centre campus from September 2021.

“The new campus will deliver a progressive student experience in a state-of-the art city centre campus, benefiting from innovative learning spaces at the forefront of higher education.

“An independent assessment of this project’s overall regeneration impact details benefits to the NI economy of £1.4billion, through this significant investment in the aspirations of our young people, the city and beyond.”