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Developer scores major victory in Belfast apartments case

A property development company has scored a major victory in its legal battle over uncompleted contracts for apartments in Belfast.

In the lead test case taken against buyers who failed to finalise on deals to buy flats at the iconic Ormeau Bakery site, Big Picture Developments was granted a High Court order for ‘specific performance by consent’.

This outcome, confirmed yesterday by Mr Justice Deeny ahead of a planned two-day hearing, means the defendant has agreed to honour an agreement to purchase one of the 156 high-specification apartments.

With a counter-claim for the return of a deposit also now struck out, costs of bringing the challenge were awarded to the developer.

The resolution is being seen as potentially highly significant in the wider lawsuit against those who have yet to complete on apartments at the site.

Writs were initially issued last year against more than 20 clients who booked flats at the showpiece south Belfast development.

Since then, however, the number of outstanding cases steadily diminished as purchases were pushed through.

The case is one of a number of legal actions which focuses on property bought at the height of Northern Ireland's housing boom.

Apartments at the Bakery were snapped up when they went on sale in 2007.

The Ormeau Bakery development was built with a unique courtyard specially designed by celebrity gardener Diarmuid Gavin. Other features include a glass bridge and gym.

But plummeting property prices over the last two years have been blamed for the difficulties which led to legal action being undertaken.

Many homes built at the peak of the boom are now worth less than the original selling price, leaving some banks reluctant to agree mortgages.

The situation means those unable to find the money for the property they agreed to could lose big deposits or face a claim for the total cost.

Following the granting of the court order in its favour, Big Picture Developments declined to confirm how many cases remain outstanding.

But a spokesman for the company said: “We are very pleased with the outcome. We do appreciate the difficulties faced by buyers given the current market condition. A significant number of buyers have now closed and we continue to work closely with the remaining purchasers to assist them in completing their transactions.”

Big Picture Developments, a property investment and development company, is owned by Barry Gilligan who is also chairman of the Northern Ireland Policing Board.

Belfast Telegraph