Belfast Telegraph

Work under way again at Ulster University's Belfast campus after delays

By Ryan McAleer

Portuguese construction firm Somague has officially resumed work on Ulster University's new £250m campus in Belfast city centre, four months after construction ground to a halt.

Phase two of the project, a £150m joint venture between Somague and the Lagan Construction Group, stopped in February after four companies under the Lagan umbrella went into administration.

KPMG was appointed as administrator for Lagan Construction Group Holdings, Lagan Construction Group, Lagan Building Contractors and Lagan Water, effectively mothballing the York Street site.

But after a four-month lull Somague is now back on site, restarting work on the two unfinished blocks in phase two.

Ulster University has said that more than 15,000 students and staff will be based at the new campus once completed, ending its long-term association with Jordanstown.

However, it appears to be a tentative resumption, with just 60-80 workers understood to be on the massive site.

At its height the project was due to involve between 500 and 600 people.

It's understood that question marks hang over the previous contracts signed with the joint venture of Somague and Lagan. It's believed that the Portuguese company is due to sit down with the university in the coming weeks to discuss establishing new terms, which should see it take over full responsibility.

The major stumbling block could prove the sharp rise in costs within the construction industry since the original contracts were signed two years ago.

Many subcontractors around Northern Ireland are being lured to Dublin, where wages are much higher, leaving a shortage of tradespeople for projects on this side of the border.

At least three NI subcontractors are visible on the York Street site - Advanced NI Scaffolding, Lewis Tower Cranes and Ronan Murtagh Contracts Ltd.

Small teams of Portuguese workers are also on site.

Ulster University said: "Somague is the contractor responsible for completion of this iconic building project.

"We continue to work in close partnership with Somague, and our various directly appointed consultants, to deliver our vision for this landmark campus in the city."

Belfast Telegraph

Weekly Business Digest Newsletter

This week's business news headlines, directly to your inbox every Tuesday.