Ulster University's £250m Belfast campus a year behind schedule
A £250m building project by Ulster University (UU) that will bring thousands of students into Belfast city centre has been delayed once again.
The university had planned to open its new Belfast Campus by late 2018, but this newspaper can reveal that it will now not be completed until late 2019.
UU had hoped to welcome students to the new campus at the start of the 2019 academic year as part of its second phase of the project, but this has now been pushed back to 2020.
This newspaper understands staff were informed of the delay yesterday morning.
A UU spokesperson said: "Following the opening of the initial phase of this landmark development in October 2015, the first block of this second phase of the new campus is scheduled to be delivered to the original timeframe next autumn.
"Together, these signal the impact, high quality and vision of the emerging city campus.
"On any large-scale construction project, adjustments to timeframes are to be expected.
"Our lead contractor's programme identifies delivery of phase two construction works of the new Belfast campus to completion by late 2019, following which our staff and students will begin to occupy the new buildings on campus.
"Relocation from Jordanstown campus will be phased around the university calendar and operations.
"Precise timings will be confirmed as we progress through the final stages of the build.
"We look forward to all staff and students being on the new state-of-the-art campus for the first full teaching year from autumn 2020."
Construction work is continuing to transform the art college campus on York Street, at the top of Royal Avenue.
This will see most UU courses transferring from the Jordanstown campus to central Belfast and student numbers in the city rising from 2,000 to 15,000.
This is the second time the project - the largest building project in Northern Ireland - has been delayed.
Kevin McStravock, UU Students' Union president, gave a mixed reaction to the news.
"This will impact students who would have been due to begin in 2019 in the Belfast campus," he said. "They will now study that academic year in Jordanstown.
"That will mean for some students they will not get to study in the new campus, which will be disappointing, but adjustments to construction projects of this scale are not out of the ordinary."
In May last year it was reported the project had been delayed until late 2018, with the university setting this target as a "key milestone".
At the time the university did not comment on why the project was running behind.
It is expected the delay will have a knock-on effect for developers who are seeking to create thousands of student flats in Belfast. A number of sites have already been bought by private sector firms ahead of the opening of the new campus.
Applications to build a 14-storey apartment block at York Street and an 11-storey student building at Great Patrick Street, which would provide accommodation for hundreds of students, are among those already given the green light by Belfast City Council's planning committee.
The first phase of construction at UU is complete and was officially opened in April last year.
The joint venture between Lagan Construction Group and Portuguese firm Somague Group was awarded a £150m contract - part of the overall £250m - for phase two.
Planning permission for the project was originally granted in 2013 after the then Environment Minister Alex Attwood backed the scheme.