Ulster University exploring `all options' in bid to re-start campus build

Ulster University Belfast Campus Phase 2. Picture by Hugh Russell

ULSTER University is exploring "all available options" to get construction workers back onto the site of its stalled multi-million pound Belfast campus.

Building work on the UU venture - the largest of its kind in the north - has been stopped for more than a week.

Lagan Construction Group and Portuguese-based Somague are joint-venture partners on the UU project, which was due to open later this year.

When Lagan got into difficulties on February, workers from all the firms involved, including subcontractors, downed tools.

Accountancy firm KPMG has this week been appointed as administrators to four companies within Lagan. It is expected that the insolvency experts will speak to potential funders and Somague over the site and how it can be completed.

The work will transform the 'art college' campus on York Street, at the top of Royal Avenue in Belfast. This will see most courses transfer from Jordanstown and student numbers in the city rise from 2,000 to 15,000.

Late 2018 was an agreed "key milestone" - the date on which work was expected to be complete. However, the university later took the decision to move students at the start of the 2019 academic year. No explanation for this delay was provided.

This was pushed back further again with UU saying it would welcome staff and students for the first full teaching year in autumn 2020.

It was later claimed that legal action over the construction contract could delay the opening by another two years. Legal proceedings have been commenced by the university to resolve some aspects of the contract. It is understood this involve claims the works were "not carried out in accordance with the contract".

The university has dismissed previous claims of a five year delay as "absolute nonsense".

In addition, the total estimated cost has increased from £250 million to £263m.

A UU spokeswoman last night said the university continued to consult with Somague "to ensure delivery of this landmark development".

"Lagan's decision to call in administrators is likely to lead to unfortunate but unavoidable delays in the delivery of the project however we are actively discussing all available options to recommence works as soon as possible," she said.

The first phase of construction at UU is already complete and open.

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