Ulster University cannot say when halted Belfast campus build will re-start

DELAYED: Workers downed tools on the Ulster University Belfast Campus one month ago Picture: Hugh Russell

ONE month after building work at Belfast's Ulster University (UU) campus ground to a halt - no one can say when the project will re-start.

The UU venture - the largest of its kind in the north - stopped in late February.

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

It has since been suggested it may not be ready until at least 2022 - and that was before the latest month-long delay.

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

Accountancy firm KPMG has 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.

Asked what progress had been made in the past month, UU said there were "no further updates".

It also re-issued a statement first released on March 6 in which it said "the university continues 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," a spokeswoman said at that time.

Asked if Lagan Construction Group continued to have a role in the project, the university again provided no update and instead re-issued a statement from February 20.

That statement said: "When appointing the Lagan Somague Joint Venture, the university ensured these companies were jointly responsible for completion of the project on time and to budget.

"Under that JV arrangement, Somague Engenharia, SA are now responsible for completion of the project including payment of all subcontractors. The university further ensured, at the outset, that the respective parent companies provided written guarantees to ultimately ensure delivery of the project."

Lagan was also asked for an update.

"We have no comment to make at this time," a spokeswoman said.

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