Belfast Telegraph

Work is halted at Ulster university's building site as insolvency experts go in


By Margaret Canning

The new £250m Ulster University campus in Belfast has been mothballed and workers sent home over a litany of legal problems, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

Work on the campus came to a standstill yesterday, two days after chief contractor Lagan Construction Group announced it was putting four of its companies - including the firm charged with building the university - into administration.

And the Belfast Telegraph can reveal that business advisory firm KPMG will be appointed as administrator in a High Court hearing tomorrow.

The university has said that joint venture partner Somague will pick up the work. However, staff at other companies on-site have been laid off as discussions begin over the site's future.

The university said that it is "consulting with Somague as necessary to progress delivery of the project".

"We await the formal appointment of an administrator to the relevant Lagan companies."

It's understood senior directors from Somague in Portugal will visit Belfast for talks with the administrators tomorrow.

KPMG is being appointed administrators to Lagan Construction Group Holdings, Lagan Construction Group, Lagan Building Contractors and Lagan Water. But the group has said 24 other companies are unaffected.

No-one from Somague could be reached for comment, while Lagan Construction Group said it would not be commenting. But it's expected the parties may discuss finding another joint venture partner with KPMG. The practice was not available for comment.

One smaller contractor who has been engaged on the site for three years said work stopped on the site yesterday. He said he was now left with around a dozen staff with nothing to do. "The whole thing is embarrassing for Northern Ireland - it's as embarrassing as the other big empty building on the other side of the city," he added, in a reference to Stormont.

He said he was owed around £100,000. "I would need to be up and running by around next week as I have men sitting at home and I'm trying to find somewhere for them to go. I'm taken aback by it all and I'm not happy."

He said the site was around 25% complete but that he hoped Somague would be capable of finishing it off. "They are a big company from what I believe. They are a big, worldwide company so I don't see why not. I hope it gets finished."

But one property insider said he believed a new joint venture partner would be required.

And the contractor said he feared that delays to the UU work could affect other major contracts in the city centre - particularly large developments of student accommodation being built in anticipation of the influx of students.

Last month, the Belfast Telegraph revealed that Lagan and Somague feared the site would not be finished until 2022 due to contract disagreements with the university.

Belfast Telegraph

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