Construction News and Jobs in Northern Ireland

16th April, 2015



Turnover grows by 50% at engineering and concrete firm



Eoin McCann, managing director of FP McCann in Magherafelt
Eoin McCann, managing director of FP McCann in Magherafelt

A Co Londonderry civil engineer and concrete manufacturer has reported a 50% increase in turnover in its latest accounts.


Employment also grew from 690 to 900 during 2014, while pre-tax profit for the year to the end of January 2015 was £10.1m, up from £7.2m.


Profit after-tax was £8m, up from £5.55m the year before.


Employment costs were also up more than 50%, from £17m to £28.3m.


FP McCann was set up in 1945. The company also runs a residential development division, FP McCann Homes.


The company is involved in big civil engineering projects including upgrading the Glarryford to Frosses Road, Magherafelt bypass and a regeneration project in Omagh.


Managing director Eoin McCann said improved economic conditions had helped but were not the only factor behind the company's growth.


"The increase in company turnover is not just simply down to an upturn in the UK economy," he said.


"The recent acquisitions and considerable investment in plant and equipment throughout our UK manufacturing facilities have allowed us to grow our product portfolio thus offering the UK's largest range of pre-cast concrete solutions."


But he said more could be done in Northern Ireland to help infrastructure and construction firms.


Mr McCann said: "Our business in UK has been assisted by a variety of government schemes aimed at encouraging housing and other construction initiatives - and we raised the possibility of similar schemes for Northern Ireland with the Finance Minister Simon Hamilton on a recent visit to our facility in Magherafelt."


Recent acquisitions by FP McCann include Hepworth Concrete Products, Loughside Quarry, Ennstone Concrete products , Tarmac Flooring (Weston Underwood), Charcon Specialist products and the Precast Concrete Division from Eleco plc.


The growth by acquisition has made FP McCann one of the largest pre-cast concrete product manufacturers in the UK.


Its pre-cast products include retaining walls and concrete pipes.

Its products have been used on projects at Swansea and Cambridge universities, and on railway projects - including the supply of modular platforms to London Bridge.


The directors report filed at Companies House was optimistic about the future. "The continual improvement in construction and construction-related demand has had a positive impact on company turnover.


"The directors believe that the company remains well-placed, with the level of secured business and our increased geographical spread of operations, to capitalise on new infrastructure opportunities."







10th March, 2015



Belfast's big building firms set to 'finalise merger'



Lagan Construction and H&J Martin both featured in last year's Belfast Telegraph Top 100 companies, and worked on projects for the London 2012 Olympics.
Lagan Construction and H&J Martin both featured in last year's Belfast Telegraph Top 100 companies, and worked on projects for the London 2012 Olympics.

Two of Northern Ireland's biggest construction firms are soon set to finalise a merger following weeks of talks, it is understood.


But it's now understood the Belfast firms are in the closing stages of reaching a deal.


Economist John Simpson said the expected deal was "another sign of rationalisation within the construction industry".


"In other instances, we have seen some firms disappearing," he said. "But this is something more reassuring -H&J Martin may have a continuing existence as part of the Lagan Construction Group."


And he said it would make Lagan an "even stronger player" within Northern Ireland's construction industry.


"It means that Lagan becomes an even larger player in construction in Northern Ireland," he said. "It's an industry where we have big players that still haven't recovered.


"Many of the firms would like to see the Executive increasing its capital spending."


Neither firm wished to comment on progress made on the deal. 


Lagan Construction and H&J Martin both featured in last year's Belfast Telegraph Top 100 companies, and worked on projects for the London 2012 Olympics.


H&J Martin is one of Northern Ireland's oldest firms - founded in 1840.


It's been behind a number of big-name projects and also carried out the fit-out of the International Broadcast Centre for London 2012.


Lagan Construction Group - which is led by chief executive Colin Loughran - announced pre-tax profits of £4.3m earlier this year, despite another challenging time for the industry.


The family-owned business was established in 1962 by Peter Lagan, and also worked on a bridge between the Olympic Park and the main stadium for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.





6th March, 2015


£16m student accommodation plan for city's landmark building gets green light



O'Hare & McGovern's managing director Eamon O'Hare said he was proud to be
O'Hare & McGovern's managing director Eamon O'Hare said he was proud to be "associated with such a prestigious scheme"

Planning permission has been granted for 400-room student accommodation at a former Belfast Metropolitan College building in Belfast city centre.



Newry construction firm O'Hare & McGovern will be behind the £16m redevelopment, after winning the tender.


The landmark building at College Square East has also been renamed as John Bell House, in honour of the Belfast scientist.


It's jointly owned by Welsh firm Watkin Jones & Sons and Holywood-based Lacuna Developments.


The project - the first major private sector student accommodation venture in Northern Ireland - is set to be completed by September 2016.


It will include 413 rooms, made up of 291 bedrooms and 121 studios. It will also feature a management suite and both indoor and outdoor communal areas.


The five-storey property was sold for an undisclosed sum last year. Speculation had been rife that the building would be turned into a hotel.


Anthony Best of Lacuna Developments said the green light for the accommodation "will no doubt provide a real boost to the local economy, attracting hundreds of students into the city centre". He added: "We are delighted to be working with local contractors to bring such a landmark building back to life.


"This is the first major private student accommodation scheme of its kind in Northern Ireland and we're pleased to have gained the support of Belfast City Council and the planners so quickly."

O'Hare & McGovern's managing director Eamon O'Hare said he was proud to be "associated with such a prestigious scheme".


"This is a magnificent landmark building which is going to be completely revitalised to provide upmarket accommodation. It will be great for Belfast."






4th March, 2015



Council's green light for £15m retail park in Holywood



An artist’s impression of the Front retail complex in Holywood
An artist’s impression of the Front retail complex in Holywood

The Co Down town of Holywood is set to get a new retail park, which it's hoped will attract major international brands to the town.




The £15m scheme called Front was granted planning permission by Ards and North Down Borough Council.


Developer Robinson Family Ltd is looking to attract a high-profile anchor tenant, hoped to be a major supermarket.


It's understood leading coffee chains have already shown interest in the new development.


Currently a Tesco Express is the only supermarket in the town, but in nearby Holywood Exchange, Tesco and Sainsbury's have large stores.


The complex, between Hibernia Street, Redburn Square and the Shore Road, will include above-ground car parking, and there are plans to host specialist markets and street entertainment.


Front has been a long-term project for the developers Robinson Family Limited, which had plans for the a larger development on the site before the economic crash in of 2006 to 2007 onwards.


Bill Kennedy, director at property agents, Colliers International, said: "From the outset, interest in the Front development in Holywood has been extremely positive which has encouraged the developer to remain steadfast in its commitment to the scheme during several tough economic years.


"Prudently, they have waited until the climate has improved before reinvigorating the project.


"We feel interest in Holywood from several retailers and commercialclients is growing and that the time is right now to launch this new mixed use scheme."


The affluent area has started to see renewed investment over the last year, with retailers Argento and Please Don't Tell, and Beannchor pizza chain, Little Wing, moving to Holywood in the last 12 months.

Redburn Square, next to the development, is receiving work to improve the area.


Mr Kennedy said: "The town has seen a uplift in retail space, with its high street almost 100% full.


"With public realm work under way, improving Holywood, we're providing modern space and we think it will it satisfy underlying demand," Mr Kennedy said. "Front will provide 38,000 sq ft of modern retail and commercial space that will serve to draw more high-profile names to the area, which can only be seen as a positive boost at a time when our town centres are in much need of investment."






20th February, 2015


Plans for £50m 250-room Belfast city hotel now gathering pace

Development mothballed in 2007 is approved again



An artist's impression of the Mutual Hotel planned for Belfast.
An artist's impression of the Mutual Hotel planned for Belfast.

Plans have been approved for the construction of a new £50m hotel in Belfast by County Tyrone firm McAleer & Rushe.


The latest development at College Avenue near CastleCourt Shopping Centre would have 250 bedrooms over 10 storeys and is led by Larkmeadow, a subsidiary of Cookstown-based McAleer and Rushe.


However, the area has been described as "blighted by roads infrastructure and poor building frontages".


The Department of the Environment's Planning Service confirmed the long-standing plans have been approved, with a significant number of jobs expected once construction commences.


But a spokesman for the company pointed out the approval was a "renewal" of previous consent granted some time earlier by the DoE.


"It's a renewal of a previous consent and McAleer and Rushe are considering their options and are in discussions with a number of different hotel operators," a spokesman said.


The company has owned the site on College Avenue "for a number of years" and plans to redevelop it first emerged in 2000.


Described as being under the control of McAleer and Rushe but under a "different guise", the original application was submitted by College Court Properties and Consarc Architects.


They proposed demolition of a warehouse for a mixed use development, including offices, retail and residential properties.


That application received planning approval nearly two years later in February 2002.

Permission was sought for a hotel in 2005, and approved in 2008 - though work did not start due to the recession.


But the latest application was submitted in September 2013 and approved last week.


A return of confidence to the market, as well as a perceived demand for new mixed-use development, prompted the renewal.


The entire project is expected to take about 18 months to complete.






19th February, 2015


Protestant and Catholic church leaders plan Northern Ireland's first multi-faith school


New category of inter-denominational school would be founded on a 'common Christian principle'



The inspiration for a multi-denominational school came from Hope Academy in Liverpool.
The inspiration for a multi-denominational school came from Hope Academy in Liverpool.

Stormont's Education Committee was told yesterday that the Department of Education is currently drawing up guidance for what will be a brand new category of school here.


The plan was revealed as clerics from the Church of Ireland, Presbyterian and Methodist denominations gave evidence to the committee's inquiry into shared and integrated education.


They said the initiative for what they termed a 'multi-faith school' was inspired by requests from the grassroots. The Protestant clerics said they have been in talks with Catholic bishops over the matter and almost all elements have been agreed.


The inspiration for a multi-denominational school came from Hope Academy in Liverpool.


Rev Trevor Gribben, Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, emphasised the school is not a "one size fits all" solution, but said he believes it has "the potential for so much good".


While guidelines are currently being drawn up by the Department of Education, decisions over religious education at these multi-denominational schools would be made at local level.


Rev Donald Kerr, Secretary of the Conference of the Methodist Church in Ireland, said the schools would be jointly managed.


"It would be a new type of school but founded on a common Christian principle," he explained to the committee. 


"We have been working together with the Catholic bishops in an agreed way to found the school. Work is at a fairly advanced stage.


"We see it as one option for sharing in the future. If it did come about, in our view it would be effectively an integrated school, with both faiths represented."

Mr Gribben said the Transferors' Representative Council, which comprises clergy from the three main Protestant churches, has received expressions of interest from a number of schools about becoming mixed denominational. He did not wish to name any schools but gave the example of a village where both a controlled and a maintained primary school had become not viable in terms of numbers.






18th February, 2015


Luxury hotel has designs on derelict Titanic offices in Belfast



An artist’s impression of what the new hotel will look like
An artist’s impression of what the new hotel will look like

The now derelict building where the ill-fated liner Titanic was designed is set for a new lease of life as a luxury hotel.



More than 1,000 ships were designed in the building, including the White Star Olympic Class Liners - Olympic, Titanic and Britannic, as well as naval warships such as HMS Belfast.


But it has stood empty and silent since Harland and Wolff departed in 1989, and has been considered at risk for almost a decade. With the exception of a new roof thanks to EU funding, the Drawing Offices have remained untouched since then.


Now they will become a key part of the Belfast tourist trail with a section open to the public as well as the new four-star hotel.


This has been made possible due to a £4.9m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).


The Titanic Foundation Ltd has said the plan for an 84-bedroom boutique hotel has the potential to create 100 jobs.


In addition to the hotel, the lottery grant will focus on developing the two historical Drawing Offices as spaces for public use.


It will tell the story of Belfast's industrial heritage, focusing on the Board Room, Telephony Room and Entrance Lobby.

Kerrie Sweeney, chief executive of Titanic Foundation, said the Drawing Offices would be safeguarded for future generations.


"Titanic Foundation in partnership with Titanic Quarter Ltd has been working on this project over the last two years," she said.

"It has been a long process but worth it."


Paul Mullan, Head of the HLF in Northern Ireland, said the project had the potential to drive regeneration and economic growth.


"This is an exciting project that will see one of Belfast's most historic buildings reborn as a major tourist destination," he said.


"This, like many of the city's historic buildings, has incredible potential to act as a driver of regeneration and economic growth."






3rd February, 2015



Derry housing: 80 social houses planned for the Glen area


Glen Area housing plan, Derry
Apex is also behind plans to build a new community centre for the area


Plans have been unveiled for 80 new social houses and a community centre for the Glen area in Londonderry.


The Creggan Burn Park site will be developed by Apex housing association.


More than 3,000 people are waiting for social housing in the city council area.


Apex chief executive Gerry Kelly said: "We will apply for planning permission after the consultation process, which will go on for six weeks."


He added: "It will probably take nine months before a contract is awarded and building can begin."


'Major investment'


The plans for the Creggan Burn Park site are on view at the Glenview community centre.


Speaking to BBC Radio Foyle, Sinn Féin MLA Maeve McLaughlin said: "It's a major investment for the area, somewhere in the region of £10m"


"There's an outline planning permission already in place, now we need to go through the formal process.


"I would expect to see progress on site this year if not early next year."


Local mother Naomi Wright said a new community centre for the area was badly needed.


"I came here myself as a child and it's needed, definitely, because there's so much use of the hall that the one hall isn't enough."


Last week plans to build 200 new homes in the Galliagh area of the city were given the green light by the Department of the Environment.







28th January, 2015







Transport Minister Danny Kennedy has launched the Formal Consultation process for the new road interchange at York Street in Belfast. The project represents a potential investment in the range of £125million to £165million.


The announcement refers to the publication of the Draft Statutory Orders which will pave the way for the improvement of the busiest junction in Northern Ireland.


Speaking at an event to formally launch the consultation Danny Kennedy said: “Currently the York Street Interchange can have around 100,000 vehicles using it every day.


“The proposed improvements will separate strategic traffic from the local streets by providing direct vehicle links between the Westlink, the M2 and M3. Also included in the proposals is the construction of a new bridge to carry York Street traffic over the junction.


“This is one of the most ambitious schemes planned for Belfast for decades, and I would encourage everyone who cares about the development of our road infrastructure to get involved and take part in the public consultation process.”


The Department will also have a public exhibition in the Ramada Encore where a scale model and computer generated graphics of the scheme will be on display on Monday 9 February from 2pm to 9pm and Tuesday 10 February from 10am to 9pm.


The Minister added: “In response to the previous consultation on the scheme the proposed York Street Bridge will now be widened to provide a new bus lane into the city and provide improved pedestrian and cycling facilities. This will improve local access from North Belfast to the City Centre.”


The eventual cost of the scheme is estimated between £125million and £165million and construction could take up to three years to complete.


The consultation period opens on Wednesday 28 January 2015 and is open until Tuesday 10 March 2015. Depending on the response to the Public Consultation, a Public Inquiry into the scheme may be held later this year.






27th January, 2015



Construction needs over 200,000 extra workers by 2019


The industry must recruit more than 200,000 extra workers in the next five years to keep on top of rising demand across the country.


The latest CITB Construction Skills Network forecast shows for the first time since the downturn, rising spending on housing, leisure and infrastructure will deliver growth in every region of the UK.


To deal with the upswing in workloads the industry needs to recruit almost 45,000 workers annually – 8,000 more than predicted last year at the start of the recovery.


The annual forecast predicts that commercial work will expand at the same pace as housing estimated at 4.6% annually over the forecast period to 2019.


Total construction employment is projected to reach 2.74m in 2019, still a little below its peak level in 2008 of 2.86m.




New recruits annually for each region

Skills demand





A resurgence of growth and employment in the north of England has the potential to create an economic power base in the region, with the North West set to grow by 2.5%, the North East by 2.3%, and Yorkshire and Humber by 2.3% annually, over the forecast period.


The biggest regional growth will be seen in Wales, which is predicted to grow by almost 6% year-on-year and create as many as 5,320 jobs in the next five years.


Scotland is expected to see a drop in growth from 2% to 1.1% over the next five years, as a result of completed infrastructure projects associated with the re-development of the M8 and the Commonwealth Games, but infrastructure investment remains at historic levels.


Demand is projected to be strongest for construction trades supervisors (2.9% a year on average), for the professional occupations strongest growth is likely for architects and surveyors (both 2.3% a year on average), and for trades, leading the way is plant operatives (2.1%) and bricklayers and building envelope specialists (both 2%). Demand is also expected to be strong for logistics personnel (2.2%).


Steve Radley, CITB’s Director of Policy and Strategic Planning, said: “Employers will need to pull every lever available to them to meet the skills challenge they face but government can play a vital role in giving them the confidence to invest in training for the long-term.


“CITB is already identifying future skills needs and working with government and industry on the talent pipeline.


“But to help it plan ahead, industry needs a clear commitment from all political parties in the run up to the General Election that infrastructure projects will be delivered on time and to plan in the next Parliament.”


Government can also help employers to develop the next generation of workers by sending out a clear signal that it will make it as simple as possible for companies of all sizes to invest in apprenticeships.”





Oaklee Trinity and Ulidia housing associations merge


Northern Ireland's largest social housing provider is to be created in a merger.




Oaklee Trinity and Ulidia housing associations are to become a new 10,000-home landlord, with property assets of £656m.


It will be called CHOICE Housing Ireland, employing almost 300 staff.


The security of tenancies and rents "should not be affected as a result of the merger," a statement read.


"CHOICE Housing Ireland is already committed to building 500 new social and affordable homes in Northern Ireland, which represents more than a third of the government's target new builds."


The merger had been mooted since last year and will complete in the "near future".


Tony Kennedy, the chairman of Ulidia, said: "We are not-for-profit organisations and the operational savings gained from the merger will be used to improve our services to tenants and build more homes."







Parker Green agrees new finance deal


Parker Green - headed by Dr Gerard O'Hare - is the first to re-finance with the US-based private equity firm since it first took over control of the loans in 2014
Parker Green - headed by Dr Gerard O'Hare - is the first to re-finance with the US-based private equity firm since it first took over control of the loans in 2014

The Co Down firm - headed by Dr Gerard O'Hare - is the first to re-finance with the US-based private equity firm since it first took over control of the loans in 2014, as part of its £1bn purchase of Nama's Northern Ireland loan book.


It will now develop planned expansions on properties on both sides of the border, including Newry's Quays Shopping Centre, which the firm claims will add £50m to its portfolio upon its completion.


Dr O'Hare said: "This is a red letter day, not just for everyone in Parker Green but also for the economy in both Northern Ireland and the Republic.


"It's a sign of emerging confidence in the investment potential that has been stunted since the recession and the frustrations of having to operate under the Nama experiment."


The re-financing was backed by New York-based Garrison Investment Group LP and its joint venture partners Earlsfort Capital in Dublin. The deal will also allow Parker Green to complete extensions to the Fairgreen Shopping Centre in Carlow and to its buildings on Merrion Street in Dublin.


Dr O'Hare added: "The past number of years working with Nama have been difficult and in reality we needed the injection of a commercial player like Cerberus into the market to bring their reputation and expertise to the table. Ultimately its business that best understands business.


Cerberus spokesman Chip Smith said: "Cerberus has been working closely with key stakeholders in government and business in Northern Ireland over the last nine months following our successful bid for Project Eagle portfolio in April 2014.


"This is the first of many deals for Northern Ireland and we welcome the commitment by Parker Green to secure this agreement."








Londonderry to get 77 new jobs from hospitality projects



The former Northern Counties Club building on Bishop Street is being converted into a 31-bed hotel — featuring a restaurant and cookery school.
The former Northern Counties Club building on Bishop Street is being converted into a 31-bed hotel — featuring a restaurant and cookery school.

The former Northern Counties Club building on Bishop Street is being converted into a 31-bed hotel — featuring a restaurant and cookery school.


Meanwhile, the former bank building in Shipquay Street will be transformed into a 20-bed hotel, complete with a bar. The projects have received funding from the Department for Social Development (DSD) and Department of Environment (DoE).


DSD minister Mervyn Storey said the projects are a “major boost to the local economy providing 77 new jobs for the local hospitality sector, as well as the construction jobs needed to undertake the work”.


“This is a fantastic addition to the city’s selection of hotels which will help build on the legacy of the UK City of Culture, encouraging visitors to come and see Londonderry’s many attractions,” he said.


Environment Minister Mark H Durkan said: “It is fitting that these important projects in Bishop Street and Shipquay Street will now proceed as a result of funding from my department, DSD and the efforts of the Inner City Trust.”


“It is important we strive together to realise Derry’s full potential.”


The work — which is being carried out by Conway Brothers Construction — is expected to be completed by late summer.






15th December, 2014



Casement Park redevelopment: Stadium planning approval unlawful


Aerial view of Casement Park GAA stadium
The environment minister had granted planning permission for a new 38,000-seater stadium at Casement Park


Northern Ireland's environment minister acted unlawfully in approving a new GAA stadium in west Belfast, a High Court judge has ruled.


Planning permission for the 38,000-seater stadium was granted by Mark H Durkan in December 2013.


Local residents who objected to the size of the planned development launched a legal challenge in response.


Mr Justice Horner held that the decision-making process was "fundamentally flawed".


Bigger crowds


He identified failures in the environmental impact assessment of the increased facilities and an unrealistic reliance by the Department of the Environment (DoE) on an existing 32,600 capacity as a baseline for the project.


With far fewer spectators normally attending matches at the current ground, the judge also found that the effect of bigger crowds on the surrounding roads network had not been properly examined.



Casement Park redevelopment in numbers


The judge also pointed to the minister never being told of police concerns about safety issues around having 38,000 people attending an event.


While he did not rule on whether the failure to inform Mr Durkan of these concerns was deliberate or accidental, he concluded that it had denied him the opportunity to consider all relevant evidence.


However, he did not quash the minister's decision.


Instead, lawyers for the DoE, the GAA and a residents group who mounted the legal challenge are to make further submissions on appropriate remedies.


Mr Durkan said he remained hopeful that "there might be a positive outcome to this".


'Disappointing day'


Asked for his reaction to the judge's statement that his decision-making had been "fundamentally flawed", Mr Durkan said: "I made what I said at the time was the right decision. I still stand by the decision I made on sound planning grounds. However, the judge has decided that is not the case."


He added: "I'm hopeful that when parties reconvene on Wednesday that common sense will prevail. This is a disappointing day, not just for me and my department, but also for the GAA."


Tom Daly, chairman of the Casement Park Project Board, said they were "deeply disappointed" by the decision.


"The proposed redevelopment of Casement Park would have provided the opportunity of a world class provincial stadium for the GAA and the broader community in the heart of Belfast," he said.


"The project would also have provided much needed economic and social benefits to west Belfast and beyond, including financial investment, new jobs, apprenticeships and community projects.


"Over the coming weeks we will reflect on this decision and consider what the next steps are for Casement Park."


The GAA's provincial body, the Ulster Council, said a 38,000 capacity was needed for the staging of Ulster Senior football finals and All-Ireland quarter-finals.


Since the hearing, a redeveloped Casement Park emerged as a potential venue in Ireland's bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup.


The redevelopment of Casement Park is part of the government's policy to upgrade the three major sports grounds in Belfast - football's Windsor Park, Ulster's rugby ground at Ravenhill and the Gaelic games stadium at Casement.


Three new stands have been constructed at Ravenhill.


Work on modernising Windsor Park, the home of Irish League club Linfield and the Northern Ireland international team, is ongoing.





Mivan: Redundant construction workers win payout


The Antrim-based firm used to employ 289 people and specialised in fitting out cruise ships and high-end commercial and residential developments


Former employees at the County Antrim construction firm Mivan have won a compensation payout after they were made redundant without warning.


Staff lost their jobs when Mivan went into administration in January 2014.


A case was taken by a law firm that argued staff were entitled to a protective award, as they had not been consulted before being made redundant.


Each worker is likely to receive about £2,500 in compensation as a result of the industrial tribunal ruling.




The tribunal granted the protective award for all the workers who had made a claim.


As Mivan is insolvent, the award will be paid by the redundancy payments service and was capped at eight weeks' pay.


Many of the 144 former staff were members of the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT).


Andy Fisher, regional secretary for UCATT's north west and Northern Ireland Region, said: "Dedicated construction workers, many with years of service with the company, were dismissed without warning.


"It is only through the combined efforts of UCATT and Thompsons NI, that these workers have been able to receive compensation."


'Time limit'


The protective award ruling paves the way for other former employees at Mivan to also claim compensation.


John O'Neill, from Thompsons NI solicitors said: "While many of the ex-Mivan staff have now successfully brought such claims, there are still around 140 such persons who have not brought claims.


"While this most recent decision of the tribunal potentially makes a similar award to these persons, they will not receive any such award without pursuing a formal legal process of making a claim to the tribunal.




"As there is a short time limit for any such claims at this stage, it is vital that any ex-Mivan employee who was dismissed on or after 17 January 2014 who has not already been part of any such claim and now wishes to do so should do so as soon as possible."


Ex-Mivan employee William Glendinning, from Newtownabbey, said: "This extra compensation is very helpful to myself and the others who lost their jobs with no prior warning and consultation, a number of whom remain unemployed or had to go abroad to get work."


Mivan was one of Northern Ireland's best known construction companies.


The Antrim-based firm employed 289 people and specialised in fitting out cruise ships and high-end commercial and residential developments.




Mivan made massive losses on projects in Romania, which led to a restructuring of the business in 2012.


However, it continued to face problems and late in 2013, it entered talks with Lagan Group Holdings about a possible takeover deal, but the discussions ended without agreement.


Mivan was founded by Ivan McCabrey in 1975, and he quickly moved into overseas contracting.


In the early 1980s, the firm was involved in a wide range of projects in Iraq, including power stations, apartments and a palace for Saddam Hussein.


The company continued to win work in the Middle East, including the restoration of the prestigious Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, for which it won a Queen's Award for Export.


Other high-profile jobs included fit-outs at Disneyland Paris, the Millennium Dome, the Scottish Parliament Building at Holyrood in Edinburgh, and One Hyde Park, London's most expensive apartment development.




21st November, 2014



Belfast's new green gateway - a park on either side of the M1



A computer-generated image of the South West Gateway Masterplan which will regenerate Belfast’s Boucher and Andersonstown areas
A computer-generated image of the South West Gateway Masterplan which will regenerate Belfast’s Boucher and Andersonstown areas

Ambitious new plans to transform the Boucher Road and Andersonstown areas of Belfast could see a park created on either side of the M1 motorway, linked by a walking and cycling bridge.

The new South West Gateway Masterplan, launched by Social Development Minister Mervyn Storey, sets out a blueprint for regenerating one of the city's most important economic areas, stretching from the Falls and Andersonstown Roads to the railway and from Stockman's Lane in the south to the Bog Meadows and Windsor Park.


The plan, drawn up by The Paul Hogarth Company, proposes a range of measures aimed at improving air quality, community interfaces, reducing traffic congestion and creating pedestrian and cycle corridors.


It suggests making use of the Boucher Road Playing Fields and a vacant wastewater treatment works on the other side of the motorway to establish a new Blackstaff Park named after the river that will flow through it.


These open spaces will be linked by a new landmark bridge across the M1 that connects the Boucher Road and Falls Road and carried pedestrian and cycle traffic, although a larger bridge open to vehicles is also an option.


"Further connectivity within and beyond the South West Gateway would be achieved through the establishment of a local greenway network," a spokesman for the company said.

"Specifically this would involve a pedestrian and cycle route between Musgrave Park and the Milltown Cemetery as part of a wider greenways system linking the River Lagan and Belfast Hills.

"Additional connections via the Blackstaff River could also be explored."


The plan proposes investing in a number of quality pedestrian and cycle corridors, with lighting tree planting and signage.


"The South West Gateway has potential to play a more important ecological role in the city, having once been largely an area of wetland like the Bog Meadows Nature Reserve," the spokesman said.


"Notably, yet unknown to many, the Blackstaff River passes through the centre of the gateway to the rear of business properties before entering a long culvert on its way to the Lagan. It is proposed to create a network of ecological corridors that extend wildlife habitat and encourage greater biodiversity across the area."






19th November, 2014



Belfast's first urban beach could bring seaside to Titanic Quarter



An artist’s impression of what the urban beach could look like

It was transformed into the People's Park following Queen Victoria's visit to Belfast in 1849, a popular spot for the city folk to gather and enjoy the sunshine, the Highland dancers, the bands and the boat races.

Now those halcyon festival days on Queen's Island could be back - with plans to create Belfast's first urban beach next to the Titanic Belfast building.

The Titanic Foundation is celebrating after its ambitious plan to create an urban beach in Titanic Quarter was shortlisted for a potential £50,000 prize from the People's Millions, a partnership between the Big Lottery Fund and ITV.

Now it needs your help to make that dream a reality as 10 candidate projects across the UK are pitted against each other next week in search of the public vote.

The inspirational plan would see 400 tonnes of sand carted to Queen's Island, where it will be used to create a man-made beach on the lawn close to the Titanic Belfast building for the next five years.

Titanic Foundation destination manager Maeve Curran says a boardwalk will be built round the site, along with a string of colourful beach huts to evoke a seaside atmosphere whatever the weather.

Not only will the urban beach offer a shared space for the people of Northern Ireland, but it will also host a series of sporting, cultural and educational events. In fact, the plan is to have it in place by July next year to greet the arrival of the Tall Ships.

The team has already planned a host of fun activities that can be staged at the beach, from beach volleyball to building giant sandcastles and playing life-sized board games.

The competition, which will be showcased on the UTV evening news from Monday, November 24 to Wednesday, November 26, will see community groups go head-to-head in a bid to win a Big Lottery Fund award for life-changing projects. Two groups each night will make their cases for viewers' support, to take home up to £50,000, with the public voting by phone to help decide who wins the prize. 


Titanic Foundation's 'Build a Beach' project is up for public vote on Monday, November 24 - so have your phone at the ready so that as many people as possible can get behind this exciting project. Maeve said: "In 2013 Paris Plage attracted three million people and many beaches are popping up in cities across the UK, including Southbank in London, Cardiff, Newcastle, Liverpool, Birmingham and Bristol. We want to bring a little bit of seaside to the city and have positioned the beach next to our World Class Visitor attraction, Titanic Belfast, to add to the visitor experience.






17th November, 2014



Reports of economic recovery greatly exaggerated



Business editor Margaret Canning

Just as Mark Twain responded to newspaper reports of his death with the immortal words (and I paraphrase) "reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated," so has the Construction Employers Federation been swift to refute suggestions that construction in Northern Ireland has recovered.

The latest purchasing managers' index from Ulster Bank had suggested construction output was picking up – but the bank's chief economist Richard Ramsey pointed out that the survey canvasses firms about work they're doing anywhere and everywhere, not just in Northern Ireland.


It's true that many of our biggest and most robust construction firms have gathered an impressive amount of work in Great Britain.


Names like McAleer and Rushe and McMullen Facades are becoming extremely well-known in construction circles in Great Britain.


But while workloads there may be flourishing, workloads back at home are lighter unless you are lucky to bag a really big project.


McAleer and Rushe, however, which is based in Cookstown, has been able to buck the trend to an extent, and has begun fresh property development on its own account in home markets, while carrying out major projects, including a new foray into student housing, in Great Britain.


There is a parallel here, with Great Britain firms like Watkin Jones making student housing their first venture in Northern Ireland.


Conor Mulligan of Lagan Homes remarks that it's ironic that Northern Ireland construction workers are heading to Great Britain to do the type of infrastructure building work that is held up in bureaucracy and delay back at home.


So marked is the exodus of construction workers to Great Britain, that John Armstrong remarks that "only things in full flight for construction are the planes loaded with Northern Irish construction workers travelling to Britain week in, week out."


Construction workers here who may have been laid-off during the downturn will no doubt be relieved to have work, even if it is a plane-ride away.


And Finance Minister Simon Hamilton last night took pains to point out that the implications for capital budgets of the wider October Monitoring Round still had not been finalised. But while the economic recovery is fragile all around, it may be even more fragile for construction. 'Construction workloads back at home are lighter'




Bureaucracy 'forcing house-builders out of NI'



Construction in Northern Ireland is hampered by a dependence on public spending, according to the head of one house builder.


Conor Mulligan, managing director of Lagan Homes, said most workloads were dependent on the departments for Regional Development, Health and Education.


He claimed areas relating to the departments were being held back by budget and procurement rules and said it was ironic that Northern Irish firms were generating turnover elsewhere.


"Our contractors are going abroad to construct the major roads, schools and sport's stadiums that for one reason or another have been blocked here," Mr Mulligan added.


But he praised regional and central government for recognising the importance of private and public housing and giving rise to schemes to increase supply.


"These included the reduction and removal of infrastructure and affordable housing obligations to unblock supply," Mr Mulligan said.


"There was government funding and guarantees to both help the builder and the purchaser to finance housing." He also criticised leaders for opting out or not availing of taxpayer-funded initiatives home-buyers in England, Scotland and Wales have benefited from.


"The planning system and chronic underspending on infrastructure also places here at a disadvantage in competition for private and institutional funding for house building," he added.






10th November, 2014



Landmark visitor centre in Belfast set to celebrate our legends


CS Lewis


CS Lewis

The first sod has been cut on a landmark building that is set to revitalise a once-derelict strip along Belfast's Newtownards Road.

GEDA Construction has been appointed as the lead contractor for the new visitor centre at Holywood Arches, which will sit alongside the CS Lewis Civic Square being developed as part of the £40m Connswater Community Greenway.

The visitor centre, which is sited at the point where the greenway crosses the path of the Comber Greenway, will include a coffee shop, interactive information points, hi-tech displays celebrating local legends such as Narnia creator CS Lewis and Van Morrison, and a shop selling locally made merchandise.

It will be located within a new building which part-funder Landmark East expects to act as a catalyst for regeneration in east Belfast.

Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster said: "I am sure this new landmark building will bring the spotlight to east Belfast helping to educate and celebrate the rich historical and cultural heritage of the area." The visitor centre is due to be completed in July 2015.






New college 'smaller than planned'




Martin McGuinness said the planned new emergency services training facility will probably be smaller than originally envisaged



The steering group, made up of Stormont officials and representatives of the emergency services, undertook a review of the envisaged development in Desertcreat, near Cookstown in Co Tyrone.


The deputy first minister said: "In terms of the scale of the college, the scale in all probability will not be on the same scale as originally envisaged."


He added: "I think that the review that will take place over the course of the next while will obviously have to deal with that but at the end of the day this money has been allocated in the 15/16 budget.


"It is £53 million and I think that the sooner we get on with this project the better because as far as I am concerned it has taken far, far too long."


He said the Executive had made a very clear commitment that the construction of the community safety college was a huge priority.


The planned new build has already been beset with years of delay and setbacks. First proposed in 2004, it was originally envisaged to be opened by 2008 but building work has still not started.


A procurement exercise stalled earlier this year when concerns were raised over whether the project could be delivered within budget.






7th November, 2014



Desertcreat college: Northern Ireland executive reaffirms commitment


Desertcreat site
Work on the site at Desertcreat in County Tyrone had been due to begin earlier this year


The Northern Ireland Executive has said it remains determined to deliver on its commitment to build the new training college for the police, fire and prison service.


Earlier this month, a team in charge of plans to build the £130m facility at Desertcreat, County Tyrone, said the project should not continue.


More than £12m has already been spent buying the site and on design fees.


The executive said the Programme for Government commitment would be met.


It also criticised "recent media reports that the community safety college at Desertcreat would not go ahead".


'Taking stock'


On Thursday night, Justice Minister David Ford also confirmed the executive remained committed to the project, in an interview with BBC Northern Ireland's The View.


"We need to establish whether the current plan, Desertcreat mark one, is actually the valid plan going forward, but it is a pause and take stock exercise, both looking at the capital project and the long term needs," he added.


"It is not saying this is not happening, it is saying we are taking stock."


The steering group in charge of the project had said concerns about the current financial environment meant it "would not be prudent to press ahead".


The Community Safety College, near Cookstown, would be one of Northern Ireland's biggest construction projects.


It was first announced in 2004 and was originally due to be finished in 2008.


Last December, it was announced that a consortium made up of Belfast company Gilbert Ash and Spanish firm FCC had been appointed to build it.


Work had been scheduled to begin earlier this year.


However, a senior police officer told a joint meeting of the Enterprise and Justice Committees in March that the procurement process was still ongoing.


Alistair Finlay said there was some uncertainty over whether the preferred bidder could meet its tender requirements.






GRAHAM and Lagan Construction Group win Green Port Hull contract


Artist's impression


A joint venture between two of Northern Ireland's largest construction firms has been awarded a £100m contract for a major marine project in Hull.


GRAHAM and the Lagan Construction Group will redevelop a dock to eventually be used as a wind turbine factory.


The project, known as Green Port Hull, will involve reclaiming 7.5 hectares of the Humber river to create a new quay.


It will also require earthworks, dredging berths and building internal access roads and service networks.


German multinational Siemens will then build its wind turbine facilities on the site.


Paul Scott, project director for the joint venture, said Green Port Hull would be a "world-class manufacturing facility" and would establish the Humber at the centre of the offshore wind sector in the UK.


Northern Ireland's major construction firms now do the bulk of their work in Great Britain, reflecting the lack of recovery in the local market.


GRAHAM's current projects include work on Glasgow's subway system, while the Lagan Construction Group's projects include an energy-from-waste plant in Cardiff.






3rd November, 2014




Construction Excellence Awards 2014 Winners

Lagan Water Cleans Up at Awards


Neil McKenzie, Director at Lagan Water, and Rhona Quinn, President of the Construction Employers Federation (CEF), celebrate with a splash as Lagan Water win the Overall Award at the Construction Excellence Awards 2014 for the Clay Lake Water Treatment Works in Keady, Co Armagh. 




2 October 2014: The winners of the Construction Excellence Awards 2014 were announced in Belfast last night. Guest of Honour, Minister for Employment and Learning, Stephen Farry, revealed Lagan Water as the winner of the Overall Award for the Clay Lake Water Treatment Works in Keady, County Armagh. 


The water infrastructure project, which also won the Utilities Infrastructure Award, emerged as the ultimate winner for 2014 against stiff competition from the other 14 category winners including the Redevelopment of Ravenhill Stadium by Gilbert-Ash and the new Antrim Area Hospital Emergency Department by Farrans Construction. 


Congratulating the overall winners John Armstrong, Managing Director of the Construction Employers Federation (CEF) said, “We turn on our taps and out comes high quality clean drinking water – we take that for granted, but of course it is millions of pounds of investment in infrastructure that makes that possible. The Clay Lake Water Treatment Works is the sort of project that is often invisible to the public and I think it is a testament to the outstanding work of Lagan Water that this vitally important part of our local construction industry has been brought into the spotlight.” 


A packed Culloden Hotel hosted the prestigious ceremony which is now firmly established as the highlight of the construction calendar in Northern Ireland. The audience, which included guests from across the political, public and private sectors, was addressed by Stephen Farry, the Minister for Employment and Learning. 


Mr Armstrong said, “The Minister’s presence at tonight’s ceremony underlines the construction industry’s significant contribution to employment, apprenticeships and training opportunities in Northern Ireland. As an industry we want to work in partnership with our political leaders to create more jobs and to further develop the skills of our people.” 


“Construction output on the ground in Northern Ireland has fallen on average by 8% each year since 2007/08 with the loss of over 20,000 jobs. Due to construction’s unique multiplier effect the absence of a recovery in construction activity is holding back growth in the wider economy. Just as hope was growing that 2014 might mark the end of the construction recession in Northern Ireland the industry has been hit with a freeze on a number of public sector maintenance contracts. Whilst CEF has been calling for the Northern Ireland Executive to take active steps to facilitate an increase in construction activity, the key message in the short term is don’t kick the industry when it is down.”


“Against this challenging backdrop I congratulate all the shortlisted finalists and particularly the winners of each of the 14 categories. These companies are ambassadors for the construction industry both at home and now increasingly abroad. It is the quality of their work that makes them stand out from the crowd.”


The Social/Community Construction Award was won by Heron Brothers for the Cancer Fund for Children’s Daisy Lodge whilst Tracey Brothers won the Restoration Award for the Fit Out of the SS Nomadic and the restoration of Hamilton Dock. The Ravenhill Stadium redevelopment by Gilbert-Ash emerged as the winner of the Commercial Construction Award.


McLaughlin and Harvey had a double success for their quality performance across projects, picking up the Environmental Sustainability Award and the Exporting Award. 


Graham Construction was crowned winner of the Education Infrastructure Award for Lagan College, Felix O’Hare picked up the Transport Infrastructure Award for Portadown Railway Station and Farrans won the Health Infrastructure Award for Antrim Emergency Department. Farrans’ project also went on to win the Achieving Excellence in Partnering Award in recognition of the successful team approach adopted by the client, consultants, contractors and supply chain.


The Social Housing Award was won by T&A Kernoghan for its Parkside Development on the Limestone Road making it four wins in the last five years in this category for T&A Kernoghan. The Greenfield Housing Award went to JFM Construction for Carndale Meadows and Hagan Homes picked up the Brownfield Housing Award for Old Church Square.


The Health and Safety Award went to Deane Public Works whilst the Employment and Learning Minister passed on his special congratulation to Portview Fit-Out for their success in winning the Training Award.



Desertcreat police and fire training college plan halted


overview of practical training area
Artist's impression of part of the planned college


A team in charge of plans to build a new training college for police and other services in County Tyrone has said the project should not continue.


The £130m facility at Desertcreat was to have been shared by police, fire and prison services.


More than £12m has already been spent buying the site and on design fees.


But a steering group in charge of the project has said concerns about the current financial environment mean it "would not be prudent to press ahead".


The Community Safety College, near Cookstown, would have been one of Northern Ireland's biggest construction projects.


It was first announced in 2004 and was originally due to be finished in 2008.


Last December, it was announced that a consortium made up of Belfast company Gilbert Ash and Spanish firm FCC had been appointed to build it.


Work had been scheduled to begin earlier this year.


However, a senior police officer told a joint meeting of the Enterprise and Justice Committees in March that the procurement process was still ongoing.


Alistair Finlay said there was some uncertainty over whether the preferred bidder could meet its tender requirements.





16th October, 2014



Clarendon House: Plan to demolish Belfast office block


Clarendon House
The company is planning to knock down Clarendon House on Adelaide Street and is then expected to develop a new office complex


The County Tyrone property firm, McAleer and Rushe, has filed an application to demolish an office block in Belfast that it recently bought.


The Cookstown company intends to knock down Clarendon House on Adelaide Street and is then expected to develop a new office complex.


Belfast City Council had attempted to buy the building and could end up as anchor tenant in the new development.


McAleer and Rushe is one of Northern Ireland's biggest property firms.


However, it has not embarked on any major local projects since the economic downturn.


The firm has remained active across the rest of the UK, particularly in the construction of hotels.


It has also has bought the former Belfast College of Business Studies building at Brunswick Street.


In addition, the firm recently cleared the site of a former church on Great Victoria Street where it has planning permission to develop a ten-storey office block.


Very little new office accommodation has been developed in Belfast since the property crash.


However, a significant number of inward investors will need high quality offices over the next three to five years.




15th October, 2014



Belfast Harbour office project will support 600 construction jobs


City Quays 2 will provide 124,000 sq ft of grade A office space when it is completed in mid-2016
City Quays 2 will provide 124,000 sq ft of grade A office space when it is completed in mid-2016

A £20m office development in Belfast Harbour will support 600 construction jobs when work begins next year, after it obtained planning permission.


The project - City Quays 2 - will provide 124,000 sq ft of grade A office space and be completed in mid-2016.


Work on an adjacent office project, City Quays 1, is already well under way.


The harbour said there was "a high degree of interest" from businesses seeking accommodation in the area.


Graeme Johnston, Belfast Harbour's property director, said: "Following Invest NI's recent successes the time is right to further invest in City Quays and support the region's economic development."


Property advisors CBRE stated recently that at least 30 companies are searching for grade A premises in Belfast.


It said the demand - in terms of space requirements - was about three times the size of City Quays 2.


In a separate planning decision, the harbour has also received planning permission for a 200,000 sq ft extension of Sydenham Business Park located beside George Best Belfast City Airport.


The development, which will be demand led, will provide for 26 new business units.





9th October, 2014


Casement Park: Construction delays costing £60,000 a week, court told


Aerial view of Casement Park GAA stadium
The GAA wants to build a new 38,000-seat stadium on the existing Casement Park site but residents living nearby are challenging the plan in the High Court

The delay in starting full construction on the new Casement Park GAA stadium is costing £60,000 a week, the High Court has been told.


Counsel for the sporting organisation also said the overall bill for the redevelopment in west Belfast had risen by £2.7m.


Residents living near the stadium are taking legal action to try to block the planned £77m redevelopment.


It was approved by Environment Minster Mark H Durkan last December.


He gave the go-ahead for the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) to build a new 38,000-seater stadium on the existing site.


In new figures disclosed at the legal challenge to the project, a judge was told on Thursday that almost £5m of preliminary work would be lost if the scheme was halted.


The residents group argue it would be too big for the area, dwarf surrounding homes, block out light and compound traffic congestion.


The proposed new stadium was expected to cost £77m, with the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure providing £62m in funding and the GAA the rest.


The judge has been told pre-construction work carried out by the contractor was already well under way by the time Mooreland and Owenvarragh Residents Association launched legal action.


It was previously claimed that the bill for that phase amounted to £2.3m.


Counsel for the GAA said the up-to-date total was now in excess of £4.8m.


It includes:

  • £2.6m spent on design costs.
  • £1.4m on work undertaken so far by the contractor.
  • £800,000 of direct GAA costs for project management, legal fees and other miscellaneous bills.


According to the GAA's counsel, none of that money would be recoverable if the decision to grant planning permission was quashed.


Delays in starting construction work, which was supposed to get under way in April, have also had a financial impact, the court heard.


Based on inflation, the GAA's counsel said the sporting body had been advised the hold-up had led to the overall cost of the project increasing by approximately £2.7m to date.


He added that every week building work was pushed back resulted in a further £60,000 increase.


The new Casement Park scheme forms part of a wider project involving development at Windsor Park football stadium and the reconstructed Ravenhill rugby ground.


Original plans to build a showpiece arena capable of hosting all three sports at the former Maze prison site were scrapped in 2009.


Residents opposed to the scale of the Casement Park project claim it would be replacing a ground that opened in 1953 and that had not come close to selling out a lower capacity in decades.


Their lawyers also argued that the scale of the development was not warranted by attendance records.


Central to the case is an allegation that the environmental assessment was defective because it relied on an existing 32,600 capacity as a baseline for examining the impact of an increase of just over 5,000 seats.


The hearing continues on Friday.





8th October, 2014



Northstone: NI construction group reports fall in profits



Construction workers on building site
Northern Ireland's construction industry is recovering after a deep recession but still faces challenges in the current economic climate


Northstone, one of Northern Ireland largest construction groups, reported reduced turnover and profits in 2013.


The firm said market conditions "continued to be challenging" but that they anticipate a return to growth in 2014.


Northstone showed a pre-tax profit of £6m on turnover of £239m, compared to 2012 when profit of £8m was achieved on a £299m turnover.


Its best-known trading business is the Farrans construction firm.


It also sells quarry products and ground access systems for the utility industries.


The fall in group turnover in 2012 was all attributable to its building/civil engineering division where turnover fell from £226m to £153m.


The company's workforce fell from 992 to 968 over the year and the accounts show redundancy costs of £358,000.


During the year, the firm bought the Cemex (NI) cement business for an undisclosed sum.


Northstone is ultimately owned by CRH plc, the Dublin-based building materials group which is worth around £10bn.






McAleer & Rushe buys two major development sites in Belfast



Former Belfast tech building Brunswick Street



The property firm, McAleer & Rushe, is understood to have bought two major development sites in Belfast.


The sites are the former Belfast tech building at Brunswick Street and Clarendon House office block on Adelaide Street.


Both have planning permissions to demolish the existing buildings and construct new office blocks.


McAleer & Rushe, based in Cookstown, County Tyrone, is one of Northern Ireland's biggest property firms.


However, it has not embarked on any major local projects since the downturn.


The firm has remained active across the rest of the UK, particularly in the construction of hotels.


It has also worked on a large scale on student accommodation schemes and recently sold two sites in Bournemouth and Portsmouth to a student housing firm.


Very little new office accommodation has been developed in Belfast since the property crash.


However, a significant number of inward investors will need high quality offices over the next three to five years





10th September, 2014









CSR are proud sponsors of the 2014 CEF Construction Excellence Awards.



Good Luck to all our Clients who have been nominated.

See you at the Culloden on Thursday 2nd, October!


CSR were proud to present Ken Whan, Operations Director from Heron Bros. Ltd with the CEF Construction Excellence Award (Social / Community) for Daisy Lodge Children's Cancer Retreat in Newcastle. Congratulations to everyone involved!!!






Construction Excellence Awards 2014 Showcase of Finalists


Construction Celebrates Excellence


John Armstrong (CEF Managing Director), Brenda Stevenson (Mayor of Derry) and Rhona Quinn (CEF President) take their hats off to the local construction companies that have been shortlisted for the Construction Excellence Awards 2014 at the Showcase of Finalists in the Guildhall in Derry.  The restoration of the Guildhall, undertaken by H & J Martin, was the overall winner of the Construction Excellence Awards last year.


10 September 2014: The competition to win the highest accolade in the local construction industry took a step forward today as the shortlisted finalists for the Construction Excellence Awards 2014 were revealed at the Guildhall in Derry.  The awards celebrate the best construction and civil engineering projects delivered in Northern Ireland over the past year.


Speaking at the Showcase of Finalists event, John Armstrong, CEF Managing Director said, “Last year H&J Martin won the Overall Award for their exquisite restoration of this iconic building. The Guildhall is a perfect example of how the construction industry can enhance our existing built environment, help to revitalise an area and boost the local economy. It is a most fitting location to showcase the contenders for the 2014 awards.”


“I warmly congratulate all of those companies who have been shortlisted for an award. QMAC Construction and Graham Construction are shortlisted for four awards and H&J Martin have put themselves in a good position to follow up on last year’s success by making the shortlist for five awards.”


“Construction output in Northern Ireland hit a new low in 2013/14 and the number of construction projects being completed locally was noticeably down. However, whilst the volume of work has reduced substantially it is reassuring to see the quality of projects that are still being delivered.”


“Over the summer our distinguished judging panel has been visiting each of the shortlisted projects to identify the fourteen category winners and the overall winner. They now have some very difficult decisions to make.”




Shortlist of Finalists





Education Infrastructure Award



David Jameson Roofing

Longstone Special School


Felix O'Hare & Co

Campbell College


Graham Construction

Lagan College


QMAC Construction

University of Ulster





Health Infrastructure Award



Farrans Construction

Antrim Emergency Department


Felix O'Hare & Co

Old See House



Hemsworth Court - Dementia Care Facility


Woodvale Construction

The Rowan Centre





Transport Infrastructure Award



Felix O'Hare & Co

Portadown Railway Station


Glasgiven Contracts

Antrim Railway Station


Woodvale Construction

Walled City Lighting Project





Utilities Infrastructure Award



Deane Public Works

Lisburn Public Realm Sewer & Watermain Rehabilitation


Farrans Construction

River Strule Abstraction Project


Lagan Water

Clay Lake water Treatment Works


William & Henry Alexander (Civil Engineering)

Dunmore Wind Farm





Quality Performance



Environmental Sustainability Award



Glasgiven Contracts



Graham Construction



McLaughlin & Harvey



Wilson Construction






Exporting Award




H & J Martin




McLaughlin & Harvey




Rollformed Fabrications








Health & Safety Award




Deane Public Works




Graham Construction




H & J Martin




Portview Fit-Out








Training Award




Graham Construction




H & J Martin




Lagan Construction Group




Portview Fit-Out












Brownfield Housing Award




Hagan Homes

Old Church Square



JFM Construction

Pentagon House



Wilson Construction

Donard Court







Greenfield Housing Award




JFM Construction

Carndale Meadows



Kelly Brothers

Moorfield Court Phase 4







Social Housing Award




McGurran Construction

Loughview Terrace



QMAC Construction

Groomsport Apartments



T & A Kernoghan

Parkside, Limestone Road




North Howard Street Apartments







General Construction




Restoration Award




H & J Martin

Ebrington Barracks Building No 80/81



Moss Construction

Various Remedial/Refurbishment Works Bishops Palace



Tracey Brothers

Fit Out of the SS Nomadic & Restoration of Hamilton Dock



Woodvale Construction

Aras Cholmcille







Social/Community Construction Award




H & J Martin

Belfast Welcome Centre



Heron Bros

Cancer Fund for Children Daisy Lodge



McAleer & Teague

Killicomaine Community Centre



QMAC Construction

Enniskillen Presbyterian Church







Commercial Construction Award





Ravenhill Re-Development



Henry Brothers (Magherafelt)

Lanyon Plaza



Mascott Construction




QMAC Construction

Academy House – DARD






17th September, 2014


Team picked for Belfast Northside regeneration project



Regeneration plan
The Northside Urban Village Regeneration Framework sets out zones including housing
A partnership between an international construction firm and a Northern Ireland property company is expected to be chosen as
preferred developer for a major Belfast regeneration project.


The Northside scheme focuses on an area between Royal Avenue and the Westlink.


First proposed by the Department for Social Development (DSD) in 2008, it includes plans for 800 new homes.


The Balfour Beatty/Benmore partnership has reached the final stage of the development brief process.


This involves DSD and the partnership reaching a "collaboration agreement" that sets out roles and responsibilities.


'City living'


The earlier stages of the process entailed a competition that assessed financial capacity and compatibility with DSD

regeneration objectives.


Balfour Beatty is one of the world's largest construction firms with an annual turnover of around £10bn.


The Benmore Group, which is controlled by Kevin McKay, has developed offices, shops and houses in Belfast, Scotland and the

north west of England.


The firm controls at least one significant development site in the Northside area.


One edge of the Northside scheme is adjacent to the new University of Ulster campus.


The department said student housing had not been ruled out as part of the "city living" element of the scheme.


A spokesman said: "Part of that city living may include purpose-built managed student accommodation.


"No agreement has been reached on the proportionality and configuration of the sites in the development area."




8th September, 2014


Edwin Poots: Health cuts 'could delay new Altnagelvin radiotherapy unit'


Altnagelvin Hospital
The new radiotherapy unit is being built at Altnagelvin Hospital and work to clear and prepare the construction site has already begun


The opening of a new radiotherapy unit in Londonderry could be delayed by six months because of health budget cuts, according to the health minister.


The unit, being built at Altnagelvin Hospital, was due to open by mid-2016.


Health Minister Edwin Poots said it will not open on time unless money money is allocated to his department.


Mr Poots also said that plans for a 24-hour laboratory used to treat patients with serious heart conditions could be delayed indefinitely.


Last month, the minister said the Department of Health was facing a £140m shortfall in funding, following the June monitoring round at Stormont, when departmental budgets were examined and reallocated.




The Northern Ireland Executive agreed to cut Stormont departments' budgets by £78m, with the exception of health and education.


As a result of the reallocation, the Department of Health received £20m, but Mr Poots warned it was not enough to maintain safe health services.


On Thursday, he outlined the effect the cuts could have on the new developments at Altnagelvin Hospital, and said the situation was out of his control.


Work to clear and prepare the construction site for new radiotherapy unit have already begun.


Mr Poots said: "The building of it will continue apace, but as things stand, unless I get more money in the October monitoring round, the training of staff will be delayed and the consequence of that will be that the opening will be delayed.


"That's not a position any of us want to be in," he added.





8th July, 2014


Sean Quinn: Group closer to securing businessman's former companies


Quinn group premises
A group of businessmen have advanced their plans to purchase part of the former Sean Quinn group of companies.


The tentative deal includes former Quinn operations that employ more than 600 people in Fermanagh and Cavan.


The businessmen have formed a company called Quinn Business Retention Company Limited (QBRC).


A statement said due diligence had begun and the deal was expected to be completed later this year.


However it added: "There is no certainty that a transaction will be concluded."


The proposed purchase includes the packaging and construction industry supplies sectors of the former Quinn business in Derrylin, County Fermanagh, and Ballyconnell, County Cavan.


They are currently run by the Aventas Manufacturing Group.


Liam McCaffrey, a former senior executive in the Quinn Group, is now involved in QBRC.


He said: "We are excited with returning to these businesses which we previously worked in and managed.


"We will work with Aventas to facilitate stability in the local community."


No price has been put on the deal's value.


QBRC's backers were previously reported to include Fermanagh industrialist Ernie Fisher, Maghera-based John Bosco O'Hagan and Fine Gael county councillor John McCartin







10th June, 2014


Construction industry sees fastest rate of growth in 12 years



Breaking records: the construction industry in Northern Ireland saw its fastest rate of growth since the survey began
Breaking records: the construction industry in Northern Ireland saw its fastest rate of growth since the survey began

The construction sector in Northern Ireland experienced its fastest rate of growth in 12 years during May, a bellwether business survey said today.


But the Ulster Bank purchasing managers' index for May indicated that the suffering of the sector may be over, with construction experiencing its fastest ever rate of growth last month.


The good news was not limited to construction – private sector activity was up across the whole economy and staffing levels were also on the up in manufacturing, services and retail.


Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said the construction industry's growth rate in business activity in May was the highest ever for any sector tracked by the survey.


But builders were not cracking open the champagne just yet.


"No sector of the economy experienced the record rates of decline that the local construction industry has experienced," Mr Ramsey said.





Northern Ireland construction sector 'picking up pace'


Construction worker on scaffold
The UK as a whole has seen an increase in construction work


Recovery in the Northern Ireland construction industry is beginning to pick up pace, a survey of businesses has suggested.


The Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) is a monthly survey of a panel of firms that tracks indicators such as new orders, employment and exports.


It showed that in May, construction had its fastest rate of growth in more than 10 years.


However, that growth is coming off a low base, following a five-year slump.


The PMI data is produced by Ulster Bank.


Richard Ramsey, the bank's chief economist in Northern Ireland, said the figure for construction indicates a period of "catch-up from very low levels of activity".


He pointed to the last official figures which showed that the number of new houses being built was still falling in the last quarter of 2013.


Nevertheless, he said it was "encouraging" that the pace of business activity, new orders growth and job creation in the construction industry all increased at record rates last month.


He added that this may signal "a much needed upturn in the house building sector which is long overdue".


The recession in Northern Ireland, which was exacerbated by the bursting of a property price bubble, has had the greatest impact on construction.


The output of the industry has shrunk by more than 25% since 2007 and about one in three jobs in the sector have been lost.




20th May, 2014


McAleer & Rushe launches £100m Newcastle plan




McAleer & Rushe has submitted plans to Newcastle City Council for a £100m mixed-use scheme on the site of Newgate Street shopping centre.


The current 60s buildings will be demolished to make way for a 250-bed hotel, with around 30,000sq ft of space for retail, restaurant and leisure uses on the basement and ground floor, with office space on the first four floors.


Work on the two new buildings on the site will create up to 750 construction jobs.


The development will also include the refurbishment of the Grade II listed, number 67 Clayton Street, which will form the entrance to the proposed office element of the scheme.


The proposed 705-bed student accommodation complex is on the Grainger Street side of the development site.


The Newcastle office of Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners (NLP) is advising on planning.


Ian Kettlewell, associate director at NLP, said: “This new development will revitalise this area of the city centre.


“The design by a local architect has been finessed in close co-operation with the council planning officers and local stakeholders.


“It reflects the vitality of Newcastle but is respects the much loved heritage of Grainger Town.


“It includes the restoration of 67 Clayton Street, which in turn has the potential to encourage the restoration of other properties on Clayton Street.”


McAleer and Rushe acquired the site in in 2006 and secured a similar planning permission in 2011 for the redevelopment of the site to include three hotels, offices, retail and leisure units.


Subject to planning demolition of the Newgate Centre could begin before the end of the year.





16th May, 2014



Social Development Department to be investigated


The Department of Social Development (DSD) is to be investigated by the Equality Commission for a possible breach of equality laws.


The commission said the DSD, headed by Nelson McCausland, may have failed to comply with the proper procedure for screening and impact assessment.


It said the decision on whether a failure had occurred would be decided following the investigation.


The DSD has ultimate responsibility for social housing in Northern Ireland.


In a statement on its website, the Equality Commission said: "After consideration by its Statutory Duties Investigation Committee, the commission has decided that the department's actions in relation to the Housing Strategy, the Building Successful Communities Programme, and the Social Housing Reform Programme, may have failed to comply with the undertakings in its approved Equality Scheme in respect of screening and impact assessment.


"This is not a determination of whether or not such a failure has in fact occurred - that will be decided following the Investigation."





Gas to West: Bids from four companies


Three companies are bidding to build a new gas pipeline


Four companies have now submitted bids to build a new gas pipeline serving the west of Northern Ireland.


The Gas to the West project will serve Strabane, Omagh, Enniskillen, Derrylin, Dungannon, Coalisland, Cookstown and Magherafelt.


Bids have been lodged by Phoenix Gas, Firmus Energy, Bord Gáis Eireann (UK) and a joint venture between Mutual Energy and Scotia Gas.


The scheme will cost about £200m.


Up to £32.5m of that will come from the Department of Enterprise.


Phoenix and Firmus already own gas networks in Northern Ireland.


Phoenix owns the pipeline network in greater Belfast and Larne.


Firmus controls what is known as the "10 towns" network that includes Armagh, Ballymena, Craigavon, Londonderry and Newry.


Bord Gáis Eireann, the Republic of Ireland's state-owned energy firm, owned Firmus until earlier this year when it agreed to sell it to Icon Infrastructure.


Mutual Energy controls the gas pipeline between Scotland and Northern Ireland while its partner owns the gas network in Scotland.


Gas to the West will allow up to 40,000 new customer connections and should allow some big industrial operators to significantly cut energy costs.


It is expected that the licence to build the pipeline will be awarded this autumn.


After this, construction work is likely to take at least two years.


The licence has two parts: a high pressure pipeline and a low pressure distribution network which will deliver the gas to individual connections.


It is possible that the two different parts of the licence could be awarded to different companies.






Acheson & Glover: New company takeover saves 400 jobs


Almost 400 construction jobs have been saved after two companies were acquired by a new firm owned by their former chief executive.


Acheson & Glover's two trading companies have been acquired by a new company owned by their former chief executive Raymond Acheson.


Mr Acheson headed up the Tyrone-headquartered business for 30 years,


He said the double acquisition would enable the two trading companies to move into the future with confidence.


The acquisitions, following the placing into administration of a non-trading holding company, Acheson & Glover Group Limited on 2 May 2014, are supported through provision of Bank of Ireland facilities.


Mr Acheson said: "This is great news for everyone concerned as it enables both Acheson & Glover Limited and Acheson & Glover Precast Limited to continue to trade as normal without any impact on staff, customers or suppliers.


Sales doubled


"Put simply, for everyone connected with Acheson & Glover, it is business as usual."


He said the development came at an exciting time for the businesses as economic conditions across all their markets were now improving.


"Both trading companies have been making good progress for some time now and especially in recent months," he said.

"Acheson & Glover Precast Limited has a full order book and Acheson & Glover Limited has seen its sales in Great Britain double.


"That's why I am confident in making this investment. We are very optimistic about the future and delighted for everyone associated with the businesses."


Mr Acheson paid tribute to the group's 380 staff for their hard work and support in recent times when market conditions had been extremely challenging.


Both trading companies are currently recruiting as market conditions continue to improve.



13th May, 2014



Fund 'to create 180 construction jobs'


A £27m fund has been launched which could provide financing for 30 new renewable energy projects on farms creating a possible 180 construction jobs for Northern Ireland.


Fund 'to create 180 construction jobs'
Farmers can apply for funding under the new project. 


Assured Asset Energy (AAE) launched the fund on Tuesday saying the plants, when in place, could generate clean renewable energy for up to 5,000 homes across the region.


The UK based company funds and develops commercial-scale anaerobic digestion and gasification plants for processing a range of waste including food waste, harvested crops and farm waste.


The plants could process up to 450,000 tonnes of farm waste a year to produce biogas and generate up to 8.5MW of electricity for connection and sale onto the Northern Ireland grid.


Under the proposed scheme farmers would be able to apply for funding to install the facilities on their land.


Alex Colombini, director at Assured Asset Energy, said: "We're very excited to be launching this fund that will be of great benefit to local farmers and will help Northern Ireland reduce its carbon footprint.


"We encourage farmers who have the capacity to take advantage of the opportunity."


Environment Minister Mark H Durkan, who officially launched the fund, added: "Renewable energy really is a win-win. It's a win for the environment and the economy.


"This fund will help more farmers to seize the benefits of this renewable technology which can help them make savings and reduce running costs in the longer term.


"Anaerobic digesters can also assist in reducing carbon emissions and help meet Executive renewable energy targets.


"I am a strong supporter of renewable energy and believe that initiatives such as this will be a welcome boost for the rural economy."





Administrators PwC report KPL assets as stolen


Vehicles parked outside KPL Contracts
KPL Contracts carried out work for large utilities firms like BT, NIE and NI Water

KPL Contracts went into administration in February with the loss of 200 jobs.


According to administrators PwC, some of the Dungiven firm's machinery went missing after they were appointed.


Although a "significant" number of assets were recovered, it said the "remaining unrecoverable assets" had been reported as stolen.


It is understood those assets are more than a dozen diggers.


PwC's report also says the administrators faced "significant difficulties" in getting control of KPL's fleet of vehicles.


It describes how the vehicles were held at a yard owned by a related party of KPL and were only released after "protracted negotiations".


The report also details the events which led to the failure of the firm.


It had been known that KPL was under pressure following a badly timed move into the housing market.


In 2013, a large part of the firm's property debt was restructured.


However, the report reveals that KPL was finished off by an unsuccessful expansion in Scotland where it had begun working as a sub-contractor for Carillion.


That led to a drop in expected revenues which then placed the firm under acute cashflow pressure.


The administrator's report shows while Ulster Bank was owed £9.5m at the time of the firm's failure, it will likely recover less than £4m.


Unsecured creditors, which include a large number of small businesses, are owed a total of £5m, but are unlikely to get anything.


Among them is a Limavady firm owed more than £100,000 and an electrical contractor owed almost £250,000.




4th December, 2013

Desertcreat police, fire and prison college moves closer


overview of practical training area
The facility includes a practical training area for the emergency services


The long-awaited £130m police, fire and prison training college project in County Tyrone has moved a step closer with the appointment of a contractor.


It will be built by a consortium comprising of Belfast company Gilbert Ash and Spanish firm FCC.


The next few months will be spent agreeing the final cost.


Work has been scheduled to begin next spring, subject to final contract approval by the Northern Ireland Executive.


The facility - at Desertcreat, near Cookstown - has been in the pipeline for several years and will be one of the biggest construction projects in Northern Ireland.


Justice Minister David Ford said: "This is another significant phase in the development of this unique project.


"The delivery of the college is an important commitment in the Programme for Government and will provide a much needed boost to our local construction industry with the creation of much needed jobs."


There had been problems over costs incurred by the design team working on the project.


It was revealed in March that "professional incompetence" by the design team had led to the costs spiralling from £101m to £137m.


The project was first announced in 2004 and was originally due to be finished in 2008.


The cost envisaged at the time was £80m.





1st November, 2013



Lisanelly: Work begins to create shared campus in Omagh


Demolition begins
Six schools will share the site of a former Army base


Work has begun to clear and prepare the former Army base at Lisanelly in Omagh, County Tyrone, into a shared education campus.


Education Minister John O'Dowd visited the 126-acre site on Wednesday as phase one of the project got under way.


Phase one will see the construction of a new school for Arvalee Special School and a resource centre.


Six schools, catering for 3,700 pupils will eventually be built and based on the site.


Mr O'Dowd described the start of work as a "hugely significant milestone".


"The Lisanelly project is visionary. It will be the largest single investment in education facilities ever made here, with construction costs estimated to be in excess of £120m, as it brings six schools together on one campus in the town for the first time," he said.


"The commencement of demolition marks the beginning of the delivery phase of the Lisanelly Shared Education Campus. It is symbolic of the progress we have made in recent years through working together in an atmosphere of collaboration and sharing.


"It is symbolic of our move away from the past, toward a brighter future where everyone here can fulfil his or her potential, irrespective of political, religious or social background."


The minister attended the site with pupils from each of the six schools involved to witness demolition of the first building.


The six schools that will move on to the site are Arvalee School and Resource Centre; Loreto Grammar School; Omagh High School; Sacred Heart College; Omagh Academy and Christian Brothers Grammar School.


Mr O'Dowd said the schools involved had a "unique opportunity to create something special".


"The opportunity exists to ensure the end result will be greater than the sum of the individual parts and the campus provides a model for shared education here," he said.


"A model that can act as a flagship for the area and as a beacon showing the way forward for other educational communities in the north.


"The schools involved have recognised strengths and capabilities and well deserved reputations for delivering quality education and pastoral support for local children.


"There is not, and never has been, any intention to dilute the individual strengths or capabilities of those schools. Rather we want to ensure that we harness and share all that is best in these schools and working together deliver a world class, 21st Century education for the area."


The new site will include some shared areas, such as a school of performance, sports facilities and an ecology centre.




24th October, 2013


Bill Gates bets on Spain’s recovery with FCC investment


Bill Gates


Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has made a big bet on the recovery of Spain’s construction sector by becoming the second-largest shareholder in FCC, a Spanish builder hit hard by the collapse of a decade-long property bubble five years ago.


Shares in FCC, whose main shareholder is the heiress and philanthropist Esther Koplowitz, rose almost 10 per cent on Tuesday to €17.20 after the company said it had sold 6 per cent of its treasury shares to funds connected to Mr Gates for €113.5m.


Spain’s government was quick to link the investment with rising confidence in the country’s economy, with Madrid having recently raised its growth forecasts for next year in an expected exit from recession.


José Manuel Soria, Spain’s industry minister, told Spanish radio on Tuesday that the Gates’ investment demonstrated that the country’s economy now generated “greater confidence and credibility”.


The Spanish industry minister says Gates’ investment shows the country’s economy is generating “greater confidence and credibility”


The shares were sold at €14.86 each, a discount of 4.5 per cent to Monday’s closing price of €15.56. Bill Gates, through a spokesman, confirmed the investment but declined to comment further.


Spain’s large construction groups became symbols of their country’s crisis after expanding rapidly during a decade of cheap credit and building boom that collapsed from 2008 onwards.




With Spain’s total spending on public works tumbling from €39.8bn in 2008 to €7bn last year these companies have been forced to refinance large debts and sell assets, while at the same time moving quickly to internationalise their businesses to compensate for the collapse of their domestic market.


FCC is locked in talks with its lenders about refinancing €5bn of bank debt that starts to mature next year, and swung to a net loss of €607.6m for the first half of 2013, down from a profit €53.4m in the same period in the year before.


Its shares have risen 152 per cent in six months, as it has shifted its business focus, winning a large contract in Saudi Arabia to build part of the Riyadh metro and increasing orders from outside Spain.


Juan Béjar. FCC’s chief executive since March of this year, said the investment by Mr Gates “represented a confirmation of the recovery of the economy both at a national level, and as a company”.


The investment comes as foreign capital appears to be returning to Spain for the first time since the acute phase of its crisis began, with a string of investments by overseas private equity groups in its property sector since the end of the summer.


In June of this year FCC let its troubled Austrian unit Alpine fall into bankruptcy, a move that suprised analysts and was seen as evidence of its drive to restructure the company.





23rd October, 2013


Fifty NI schools to get £106m building boost


John O'Dowd
John O'Dowd said the programme would boost the local construction industry


Fifty schools in Northern Ireland will benefit from a capital investment scheme that could be worth up to £106m.


The money, from the School Enhancement Programme (SEP), will fund refurbishment and extension projects.


The value of the individual projects range from £500,000 to £4m.


Examples of projects paid for by SEP include permanent buildings to replace mobiles, refurbishment of existing accommodation and the provision of sports facilities.


Education Minister John O'Dowd said: "Last year I signalled my intention to establish a School Enhancement Programme. The purpose of this programme was to ensure that we provide the best possible education estate for our children and young people, within the budget available.


"The SEP is designed to enable the refurbishment or extension of existing schools and I am pleased to announce today that 50 schools have been informed that their applications have been successful and will be advanced to planning.


"This represents a potential investment in the estate of £106m over the next two to three years."



Paul Flanagan from St Bernard's Primary School says the funding will help better facilities and work areas


He added: "The successful projects are all consistent with the emerging area plans and the scale of the investment underlines my continuing commitment to improving the schools estate.


"Today's announcement is good news for the pupils, staff and school communities involved, as well as being a welcome boost for the local construction industry."




21st October, 2013


£250m children's hospital for Belfast announced



The announcement was made by Finance Minister Simon Hamilton


Northern Ireland Finance Minister Simon Hamilton has announced that a new children's hospital is to be built in Belfast.


The £250m facility will replace the existing hospital on the Royal site in Belfast.


The announcement was made as part of a reallocation of unspent funds, mainly from the stalled A5 road project.


The Department of Health has been allocated £52m, £15.5m of which is to go towards the new hospital.


It is expected to be completed by 2020/2021.


The department has also been allocated £14m to address waiting lists.


Mr Hamilton said he had recently visited the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children and was "shocked and ashamed" by the conditions.


Building on the new hospital could begin next year.


Other health projects allocated money include:


  • £1m for a paediatric centre of excellence at Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry
  • £1million for a paediatric ward and ambulatory care unit at Craigavon Area Hospital.
  • £900,000 to fund the co-location of the emergency department and GP out of hours at Lagan Valley Hospital
  • £900,000 for two MRI scanners in the Southern Health and Social Care Trust.
  • £3m for a new logistics and support centre for the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service.


Mr Hamilton has also given the green light to dualling the Frosses Road section of the A26.




11th October, 2013


Harland and Wolff HQ and drawing offices to be restored with £5m grant


Harland & Wolff Drawing Office
Harland and Wolff's historic drawing offices will be developed as a space for public use


A £5m grant from a new Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) programme will be used for the regeneration of the Harland and Wolff headquarters building and drawing offices in Belfast.


The money is earmarked to support the restoration of the Grade B+ listed building into a boutique hotel.


The development could create 109 jobs.


HLF has also allocated £784,000 to transform the Northern Counties building in Londonderry into a hospitality-based complex.


The Northern Ireland projects are among the first in the UK to benefit from the HLF's new funding programme, Heritage Enterprise.


The Harland and Wolff building on Queen's Island has been vacant since 1989 and has been considered "at risk" for almost a decade.


It was once the control centre for the largest shipyard in the world where more than 1,000 ships, including the White Star Olympic Class liners - Olympic, Titanic and Britannic - and naval warships such as HMS Belfast, were designed.


The most historically important rooms, such as the drawing offices, board room, telephony room and entrance lobby, will be developed as spaces for public use.


'National icon'


Nicky Dunn, chair of Titanic Foundation Ltd, said: "We are delighted that our application to HLF's Heritage Enterprise fund has been successful.


"The former Harland and Wolff headquarters building and drawing offices are one of the most authentic and tangible links to narrating Belfast and Northern Ireland's maritime and industrial heritage.


"The Titanic Foundation has worked in partnership with Titanic Quarter Ltd to develop a new use for what we regard as a national icon.


"We are committed to maximising both the heritage and commercial opportunities, promoting preservation and public access as well as tourism and wider economic benefits."


The Titanic leaves Southampton on April 10, 1912
The Titanic was designed in the Harland and Wolff drawing offices


HLF chief executive Carole Souter said: "Through Heritage Enterprise we have inspired creative new partnerships between social and private enterprise to rescue and return to use some of our most neglected historic buildings.


"This multi-million pound investment in Northern Ireland's heritage will enable two iconic local buildings to be brought back to life and have their potential as tourist assets and catalysts for wider regeneration achieved, and we are delighted to be involved."


'Exciting project'


The Northern Counties in Derry is located on Bishop Street within the city's conservation area and was originally developed as two buildings before it was remodelled around the year 1902.


Its previous life included time as a private member's club, when it was an base for the business and civic leaders of the city and as such was not accessible to the general public.


Social and demographic changes in the city resulted in the closure of the club and it was used for office accommodation before becoming vacant in 2006.


The refurbished building will have the potential to create approximately 45 new jobs and significantly improve the tourism offer in the city centre.


Helen Quigley, managing director of the Inner City Building Preservation Trust, said: "This is an exciting project that will substantially contribute to the renewal of the building and regeneration of the area and is part of our overall investment strategy for projects within the old walled city part of the city centre."


The HLF investment is part of an UK-wide funding package worth £12m, and part of a wider investment of at least £125m over the next five years




9th October, 2013



£2m Free Derry museum rebuild at risk says trust


Conal McFeely is chair person of the Bloody Sunday Trust
Conal McFeely is chairperson of the Bloody Sunday Trust


A £2m extension to the Museum of Free Derry is at risk because Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster has not signed off on a £1.2m tourist board grant, the Bloody Sunday Trust has warned.


Plans for the museum in the Bogside could fall through, trust chair Conal McFeely said.


"It means the project is dead in the water if we cannot get them to release the letter of offer for £1.2m."


The Department for Enterprise said the project was still being considered.


The trust, which runs the museum, says it already has funding agreed in principle from the Department of Social Development and the Heritage Lottery fund - but it all hinges on Ms Foster agreeing to release the tourist board money.


In a letter to Sinn Féin MLA Maeve McLaughlin dated 26 February this year, the chief executive of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) said it was "only awaiting ministerial approval to proceed and issue a letter of offer for approximately £1.2m for phase two of the museum".


However, Mr McFeely said that eight months later, they were still waiting. On 31 October, a £500,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund will expire.


He said the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) money had been approved and that the Department of Social Development was offering £300,000 in funds. But everything rested on the NITB grant and minister's letter of approval.


"Now it is critical," he said.


"If we do not get the minister to sign off, the project is dead. The entire package is dependent on the main funder coming through. Over eight months we have attempted to do this properly without going public.


"We feel we are now in a critical phase and the project is not going to proceed due to the failure to get the letter from the NITB.


"The Bloody Sunday families are asking, 'is the minister opposed to this politically?'"


The trust wants to meet Ms Foster to establish why the grant has not yet been approved.


In a statement, a spokeswoman for the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Industry said: "As the project promoters have already been advised, the project is currently being considered.


"All projects are assessed as part of the approvals process and it is not appropriate to indicate where in the approvals process any projects sits."


The Heritage Lottery Fund has confirmed it had awarded a £500,000 grant that is due to expire on 31 October 2013. It said the HLF remained "hopeful" that a positive decision could be reached over funding in time to stop the grant being lost.



Go-ahead for multi-million pound west Belfast development


Environment Minister Mark H Durkan
The scheme has been approved by Environment Minister Mark H Durkan


Planning permission for a multi-million pound development in west Belfast, to include 450 homes and a hotel, has beenapproved by the environment minister.


The development is on land known as Glenmona, off the Glen Road.


The application has been made by the trustees of the Diocese of Down and Conor.


The minister, Mark H Durkan said it would be "a tremendous economic and social boost for west Belfast. It will regenerate this part of the city."


The scheme for the 34 hectares of land proposes:


  • 450 houses
  • replacement of existing care facilities
  • light industry and business
  • an education campus
  • a hotel
  • a range of retail and community and cultural uses within a single shopping area;
  • a variety of open space and recreation areas including playing fields


Mr Durkan added: "This will provide much needed housing for the area, both private and social. It will pump many and much needed new jobs into west Belfast.


"A hotel, education campus, local retailing, recreation and community facilities plus extensive areas of open space, will breathe life in to this area during the day and in to the evening.


"This extensive range of facilities can be enjoyed by prospective residents as well as encouraging people into the area."


The department received one objection and one letter of support in relation to the application.


In a statement, the trustees said they welcomed the decision.


"This application for outline planning approval was rooted in widespread consultation over a number of years with key community and political groups," they said.


"We hope that this approval will contribute to spearheading the regeneration of Belfast and offer a catalyst for the wider economy at these difficult times."



7th October, 2013


£10m harbour block to bid for global tenants



Planning permission has already been granted for Belfast Harbour's spectacular CQ1 office block

A £10m office development by Belfast Harbour aimed at international investors has won planning permission, the first phase of its new and grandiose dockside scheme.



Belfast Harbour plans to build a five storey, 83,000 sq ft block of high-end offices – and getting the Department of Environment's go-ahead makes it the first speculative office build to get out of the blocks in recent years.


The offices are being touted as premises for global corporations in the league of Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Citi. Work could start on the Belfast Harbour scheme, City Quay 1, as soon as next month if a contractor is appointed .


The application for the office block was lodged in March and planning permission granted last month.


Roy Adair, chief executive of Belfast Harbour, said: "CQ1 is the city-ward extension of Clarendon Dock which is already home to a number of significant occupants such as Intel, Capita and Grant Thornton.


"Belfast Harbour has been working closely with Invest NI to address the gap in Grade A office space in Belfast city centre and CQ1 will be available for a full range of commercial office uses.


"This investment, funded entirely by Belfast Harbour, will meet the needs of emerging demand."


John Armstrong, managing director of the Construction Employers Federation, said the scheme was good news for construction. "At a time when numerous public sector projects are stalling it is reassuring to see this private sector development forging ahead. With building contractors due to be appointed very soon, this project will be on the ground providing jobs for the construction sector in a matter of weeks."


David Wright, a director at agents CBRE, said City Quays 1 marked the first speculative office planning application in around six years.


"It's a brave move in that regards – but it's one that will pay dividends, too, because we are starting to run out of really good quality office space," he said.


The decision by Land and Property Service to occupy Lanyon Plaza had added to the high levels of take-up.


Mark Hackett of architecture group Forum for Alternative Belfast, which encourages the use of existing buildings, said it supported the development of high-end offices, but said: "With so very many empty sites around the centre we would question the need for any proposal over six to eight floors.


"Isolated tall blocks make little contribution to repairing the city. We believe all new regeneration can and should contribute to remaking streets with lively frontages at ground level, re-stitiching our broken city."


The overall £250m City Quays scheme is designed by architect Sir Nicholas Grimshaw, whose work includes the Eden Project.





EU body withdraws Maze Prison peace centre money


An EU funding programme has withdrawn its offer of £18m in financial support for the peace centre at the former Maze prison in Northern Ireland.


The Special European Programmes Body said it had done so after consulting with the lead partner - the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister.


They said they decided, after the talks, that the centre was no longer viable.


The Maze housed paramilitary prisoners during the Troubles from 1971 - 2000.

The withdrawal of the offer of £18m to pay for a Peace Centre at the Maze will shock - but it shouldn't surprise.


It was inevitable from the moment Peter Robinson withdrew the DUP's support for the controversial project in August.


We've had Sinn Féin retaliating by saying that means there can be no wider development of the 360-acre former jail site outside Lisburn, County Antrim.


And now Europe has delivered the coup de grace. And who can argue? It's almost an understatement to say the project "is no longer viable".


Does that mean the peace centre is dead? Not necessarily, but European officials may be hard to persuade to get on board with any new project should one ever emerge, which is doubtful.


Piece by piece - or should that be peace by peace - some people's dreams of a bright new future emerging from the rubble of the Maze is disappearing.


Ten republican prisoners died on hunger strike there.


Over the years, the scheme to redevelop the former prison site, near Lisburn in County Antrim, has been controversial.


First Minister Peter Robinson said: "What the SEUPB is doing is the sensible and practical step of ensuring the money doesn't find itself going down some black hole.


"It allows them time to look at other projects and spend the money elsewhere."


He added: "When we looked at the issue of the peace centre we made it very clear that what was required was to get support across the community, that there had to be a broad level of support, and of course if at any time that is achieved then there are other opportunities for funding.


"But at this stage it's very clear that the SEUPB doesn't believe that it's possible to get it within the period of time necessary.


"I don't think there's any difficulty whether it's Europe or whether it's elsewhere that we go for the funding - if there was the level of support that's necessary, I'm pretty sure the funding would fit into place very quickly."


Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said on BBC Radio Ulster's Talkback programme that he was disappointed at the withdrawal of funding and added that he had not given up on the project.


"I still hold out hope that at some stage we'll see it constructed at Long Kesh. I will authorise no other projects (apart from Royal Ulster Agricultural Society's move to the site) on that site until people come to their senses," he said.


"What is at the heart of this is power-sharing. From my perspective I want to share power but I can't do it on my own.


"The peace centre is a government commitment which has to be honoured. If it isn't, then it damages the power-sharing project."


The peace money will now be re-allocated to other projects.



Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has said he is 'not giving up' on the building of a peace centre.


These will be based in either Northern Ireland or the border counties of the Republic of Ireland.


BBC Northern Ireland political editor Mark Devenport said: "They may have some difficulties finding other projects because it was by far and away one of the biggest projects to be funded by that programme but they are now looking around to see how they can spend that money."


During the summer, First Minister Peter Robinson stalled the plans to build the peace centre as part of the development of the site of the former Maze prison, a decision that caused tension between his party, the DUP, and Sinn Féin.


Mr Robinson said there needed to be a broad consensus on how it would operate and what it would contain - and that is currently absent, in his view.


On Monday, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said there could be no development of the wider Maze site unless it was on the basis of previous agreements about the building of a peace centre.


'No longer viable'


In its statement on Friday, the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) said: "The SEUPB has been in discussions with the lead partner in relation to the viability of the Peace Building and Conflict Resolution Centre.


There were fears the site plans could be seen as a shrine to republican terrorism
There were fears the site plans could be seen as a shrine to republican terrorism


"It has been agreed that the project is no longer viable at this time and the SEUPB has therefore rescinded the letter of offer. The SEUPB will now consider the re-allocation of funding to suitable projects."


The European Commissioner for Regional Policy, Johannes Hahn, said: "This is a project which we supported as a contribution to the reconciliation of the communities in Northern Ireland.


"Sadly, due to the political conditions on the ground it cannot go ahead in this period.


"To be meaningful all communities have to be involved - that unfortunately is not the case. I very much hope we can try again with this project and that for the time being the money from it can be used to fund other projects."


Last week, Daniel Libeskind, the architect who designed the proposed peace building and reconciliation centre, said he was convinced the scheme would go ahead.


Ulster Unionist Tom Elliott, who attended a meeting on Friday morning at which the SEUPB made the announcement, said the one thing he took "significant comfort" from was that the £18m would not be lost to Northern Ireland.


He said the SEUPB assured those at the meeting that there were a number of other projects that would be eligible for the funding.


John Armstrong of the Construction Employers Federation (CEF) said it was another blow to the industry.


"Every project that is stalled or scrapped is costing jobs and hindering economic recovery," he said.




3rd October, 2013


No Maze development 'without peace centre'



Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said no further development will take place


The deputy first minister has said there can be no development of the Maze jail site unless it is on the basis of previous agreements about the building of a peace centre.


Martin McGuinness was speaking in the assembly chamber.


He said he was "saddened" that his party's agreement with the DUP about the centre had not been honoured.


Mr McGuinness said the centre should have been the "jewel in the crown" of the site of the former prison.


Ever since First Minister Peter Robinson put the Maze Peace Centre on hold over the summer, Sinn Féin has been making its anger clear.


Monday's comments are the strongest indication yet that, as far as Mr McGuinness is concerned, any wider development of the Maze jail site is now frozen.


The deputy first minister praised the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society (RUAS) for staging its show at the site this May.

However, he added: "The anticipated development of the site can only proceed on the basis of the honouring of the commitments that have been made."


The RUAS has yet to sign a long-term development agreement with the board that runs the Maze site.


There is no suggestion its show cannot go ahead next year.


However, the current uncertainty will not please the RUAS or make it any easier to persuade other organisations to help regenerate the former jail.




Project Manager scoops award on first outing


NHBC Redwoods Development in Northern Ireland


Stephen McKeaveney, has scooped the prestigious NHBC Pride in the Job Award for his management of the Redwoods Development in Northern Ireland.


The development is Stephen’s first housing project and he was delighted with the accolade. He said: “It was a great privilege to get the award, especially for my first housing project.”


An existing apartment block located a mile from Dunmurry village, the Redwoods Development has involved the complete internal re-fit of 44 one and two bedroom apartments.


Work began last November and was completed on time and to budget in May, the end result in addition to receiving a Pride in the Job Award has also been given an NHBC Structural Warranty.


“The attention to detail is the most important thing”, says Stephen. “Working alongside the design team is also key in achieving a great end result.”


Built by McAleer & Rushe the brand new apartment is situated in one of the finest residential locations in South Belfast.


NHBC Redwoods Development in Northern Ireland


It comprises one and two bedroom apartments and two bedroom penthouse apartments across nine floors. The apartments are finished to a high turnkey specification, with a choice of kitchen, sanitary ware and also include floor coverings and painting throughout. There is a lift to all floors, intercom entry system and generous parking on site.


This luxurious apartment block will suit all, as it is convenient to local amenities and offers a low maintenance living close to Belfast. Demand for these properties has been very strong so far, with all having been fully let within 3 months of completion.


Owned by Housing Association, Clanmil, Redwoods is ideally located beside rail networks and motorways; it is perfect for the young professional working in Belfast centre and wanting the tranquility this wonderful mature woodland site can offer.


Stephen McKeaveney is an experienced project manager, having worked on many shop and hotel fit-outs in the past; he joined Edgewater Contracts last year.


Edgewater Contracts was established in 1998 as a shopfitting company and since then has enjoyed sustained growth and expansion, in both the manufacture and fit-out divisions.


Edgewater Contracts prides itself in being able to take the client from project conception to completion, from the design process to the manufacture and installation of high quality, contemporary and traditional joinery.


A spokesperson for the company said: “Attention to detail is the key to the company’s success in providing a service of the highest quality and standards within time and budget, thus striving to tailor our services and products to meet each individual client’s specific needs.”




2nd October, 2013


McAleer and Rushe wins £60m Hilton job



London-based developer THAT Group has picked McAleer and Rushe to build two Hilton hotels at a site in Bournemouth.


Work has just started excavating the basement for the £60m hotel project, which will be built at Terrace Mount.


THAT Group plans to build two Hilton Hotels and 59 flats on the site – an iconic five-star hotel topped with a sky bar and a three-star hotel.


Ray Kelvin, founder of the Ted Baker clothing company,is a major backer of the scheme.


Property director Peter Tisdale confirmed the appointment of McAleer and Rushe, which was in a bid race with Galliford Try, John Sisk and Kier.


He said: “After many months of preparation, we have been able to make our long-awaited start.”


The scheme is expected to take around two years to complete.


Silcock Dawson & Partners are mechanical and electrical consultants on the project.




1st October, 2013


Architect Daniel Libeskind says Maze peace centre will go ahead


Daniel Libeskind speaks to the BBC's Mark Carruthers



The architect who designed the peace building and reconciliation centre on the site of the former Maze Prison has said he is convinced the scheme will go ahead.


In August, First Minister Peter Robinson sent a letter to his party members announcing that he was halting the project.


He said there needed to be a broad consensus on how it would operate and what it would contain - and that is currently absent, in his view.


But the New York-based architect Daniel Libeskind believes Mr Robinson's intervention is simply part of the process.


Mr Libeskind masterminded the Ground Zero project in New York and the Jewish Holocaust Museum in Berlin.


"I've seen that pause button in every project," he said.


"I think that every building (I've worked on) had a similar process; initial impetus then: 'How do we get consensus? How do we bring people together?'


"But in every one of those instances the building was able to forge a path towards the future. So I think it will happen. I think that people will understand that it's not a shrine to terrorism. I have full confidence that it will happen."


The DUP's Jeffrey Donaldson suggested many people in Northern Ireland felt the site was not the proper place for a peace centre because of its association with the past and because of its retained buildings.


"I think that if those buildings had been removed from the site, and we were looking at a green field I think people could have lived with that but not with the retained buildings on the site, and I think that in essence has been the problem here," he said.


I travelled to Studio Daniel Libeskind in downtown Manhattan to speak to the architect about his hopes as part of my forthcoming Radio Ulster documentary, Building on the Past.



Daniel Libeskind
The renowned architect Daniel Libeskind pictured during a visit to the Maze site last year


The centre is part of a £300m site redevelopment, but the DUP had been criticised for supporting it.


In his letter of last month, Mr Robinson ruled out any public use of the retained buildings - the one existing H-Block, where paramilitaries were held - and the hospital where Bobby Sands and other republican hunger strikers died.


He also said the prospects for building any peace centre at the site near Lisburn must be linked to building a wider consensus, and cannot just be about securing support from within the DUP and Sinn Féin.


The Maze/Long Kesh Development Corporation has promised 5,000 permanent jobs on the site and the peace centre was seen as the key to unlocking the full jobs and economic potential of the wider 347-acre site near Lisburn.


Over the years, the scheme to redevelop the former prison site has been controversial.


The Maze housed paramilitary prisoners during the Troubles from 1971 to 2000. Ten republican prisoners died on hunger strike there.


But Daniel Libeskind told me that those who believed the site would glorify terrorists had got it wrong.


'It's a complete falsehood. I was born in Poland, my parents were Holocaust survivors. I was born in a Communist country and dreaded going to school there," he said.


"How can I, who embrace democracy and open society, be involved in something as evil as celebrating terrorism? Who in their right mind would do that? I would never be involved in this project if I did not consider it something important - to bring people to Belfast to that site."




Tesco plans store at £250m University of Ulster redevelopment


Tesco sign
The Tesco store will create about 20 jobs


Tesco is planning to open one of its small format supermarkets close to the University of Ulster redevelopment scheme in Belfast.


The retail chain is planning to open an Express store at the top of Royal Avenue in early 2014.


The university's £250m scheme, focused on York Street, will house up to 15,000 students and staff currently based at Jordanstown, County Antrim.


It is expected to be completed in 2018.


In recent years, Tesco has slowed the pace of large store opening and concentrated on developing smaller neighbourhood stores.


The Royal Avenue store is expected to be in Sinclair House and will create about 20 jobs.


The university scheme is expected to generate more private investment on the northern fringe of Belfast city centre.


Earlier this year, a property firm applied to convert an office building in the area into student accommodation.


The building, Mark Royal House on Donegall Street, is close to the Art College.


Progressive Property Investments Ltd has lodged a change of use planning application to convert the building into 45 ensuite single bedrooms.





29th September 2013


New Wastewater Pumping Station for Warrenpoint


Warren Point, South Down, Northern Ireland


A Drainage Area Study of Warrenpoint in the heart of South Down, Northern Ireland has found that the current sewerage system does not meet the needs of the town.


The study was carried out by Northern Ireland Water and a number of key projects were identified for improvement. One such project was the replacement of the existing Newry Road Wastewater Pumping Station.


This work is the first phase of the Warrenpoint Drainage Area Plan and is critical to the full Warrenpoint drainage catchment. The replacement of the existing wastewater pumping station will reduce the likelihood of out of sewer flooding at Meeting Street and Charlotte Street.


Due for completion in April 2014, the development is also set to improve the water quality in Carlingford Lough, which will help meet Northern Ireland Environment Agency standards.


The £3 million investment from NI Water will see the construction of a new pumping station and storage tank located within the existing Newry Street car park and installation of sewers on Newry Road, Meeting Street and Mound Road.


As of this month, two new 10.67 meter internal diameter shafts have been installed by NI Water’s Contractor, Dawson WAM, using precast concrete shaft segments.


One shaft, fitted with a dividing wall, is a foul and storm pumping station capable of pumping 250 litres per second via 1800 meters of 500mm diameter pumping main, constructed within the dual carriageway towards Warrenpoint Wastewater Treatment Works. The second shaft is a storage tank connected to the pumping station. The combined capacity of the two tanks is more than 800 cubic meters, reducing the chances of flooding throughout the town.


The works are obviously going to cause traffic disruption to the local community; however NI Water has liaised closely with DRD Roads Service Traffic Management Section to ensure minimum delays.


Warren Point, South Down, Northern Ireland


NI Water is a Government Owned Company set up in April 2007 to provide the water and sewerage services in Northern Ireland. That translates as 560million litres of clean water a day for almost 1.8 million people as well as treating 320 million litres of wastewater a day.


In order to deliver this service, NI Water requires a huge system of pipes, pumping stations, water and wastewater treatment works and reservoirs. There are 26,700 kilometers of watermains and 15,200 kilometers of sewers in Northern Ireland.


A spokesperson from NI Water said:


“We are planning a lot of investment over the next few years to ensure that we protect public health and the environment for generations to come. In fact, by 2020 we are planning to invest £3 billion that will reduce leakage levels, lower the threats of flooding and improve water and wastewater quality.


“We believe in the years to come we can deliver much more than just water and sewerage services. We own one of the most visited tourist sites in Northern Ireland, Silent Valley, situated in an area of outstanding natural beauty and with a fantastic new Visitor Centre. With an increase in visitor numbers, this has helped to boost the reputation of the area as a major attraction.”



26th September, 2013


Nama inhibiting growth in Northern Ireland - Peter Robinson


Peter Robinson
Peter Robinson criticised Nama's role in Northern Ireland

First Minister Peter Robinson has said the Republic of Ireland's 'bad bank,' Nama, is inhibiting economic growth in Northern Ireland.


Nama controls around £1bn of property loans originally made by Dublin-based banks to Northern Ireland customers.


Mr Robinson said it had on occasions helped to protect jobs and investment.


However, he added that its policy of holding on to properties for the long term "does little to boost our economy right now".


He added: "If these assets could be liberated then there is no doubt that they could play a major role in creating jobs in the construction sector and getting our economy moving."


He described Nama as part of "a triple whammy of obstacles to a real take-off in the economy".


He said the other obstacles were Northern Ireland's marginalisation in terms of banking and the drag on assets caught up by the Presbyterian Mutual Society unwinding process.


Until now Nama has largely avoided political criticism in Northern Ireland.


Former finance minister Sammy Wilson regularly praised the agency and on one occasion said "without Nama we might have had a catastrophe".


The agency has also made new loans to Northern Ireland developers of more than £120m.


This year alone it has released funds to complete new offices for the Northern Ireland Executive's Land and Property Agency in Belfast.


It has also been involved in the deal to sell the Invest NI HQ to the Executive and has released funds for a major housing scheme in Dundonald.


A spokesman for Nama said the agency would not be commenting.


Mr Robinson was addressing a DUP function in east Belfast where he also said that economic prosperity and "real peace" in Northern Ireland are interdependent.


He said the executive had taken action to limit the damage done by the global recession and to prepare for the onset of economic recovery.


Londonderry protests over planned gasification recycling plant


Rubbish in a bin - generic



The environment minister has said he wants to be fully informed about a proposed gasification recycling plant in Derry before a final decision is made.


The group, Zero Waste North West from Strathfoyle, held an anti-incinerator meeting on Thursday evening.


Planning permission for the plant has been granted.


Gasification plants operate by heating waste to produce a gas that is used to generate steam.


"This ultimately falls on me," said Environment Minister Mark H Durkan.


"There has been quite a bit of public debate and talk and I want to learn more about what people from both sides want.


"The plant has planning permission and will ultimately require permitting permission and that means it will come to my desk.


"I came to the meeting to listen and to take away people's views."


'Zero waste city'


Judy Logue, vice-chair of the the campaign group, said: "We are opposed for environmental and health reasons.


"We know that the waste will be residual waste. This proposed plant is huge and it will deal with waste from six other borough councils.


"Our fear is that Derry will become the dumping ground for the north west.


"Our aim is for Derry to become the first zero-waste city in Northern Ireland."


A spokesperson for the North West Region Waste Management Group (NWRWMG) said: "The plans to develop an Energy from Waste (EfW) plant are part of an integrated plan to boost recycling rates and lessen the environmental impact of waste.


"The scheme will also create renewable energy and help local councils and ratepayers avoid EU fines for failing to divert waste from landfill.


"Modern energy from waste plants should not be confused with old-style incinerators. In particular, gasification, the technology being developed by NWRWMG, provides greater control of potential pollutants and reduces the amount of material which passes through the plant's sophisticated filter systems."


SDLP councillor Sean Gallagher said he was disappointed that no constructive solutions were suggested at the meeting.


"I live in Derry along with my family and that's very near the plant. I wouldn't be promoting something that would be against our health.


"Things need based on evidence and if people have a better solution about what to do with waste that we create every day then they need to come forward."


In April, the Department of the Environment ordered an internal investigation into why the public was not informed of planning approval for the plant.


A DOE spokesman said: "Once the Department became aware that a notice had not been placed in the local press notifying the outcome of the planning application, action was taken to rectify this and the requirement for public notification via the press has now been fulfilled.


"The Department regrets that this happened. An investigation has been completed and action is being taken to avoid a recurrence."



Asda to appeal Newtownards supermarket planning decision


Large Asda sign above a superstore
Asda already has a store in Ards Shopping Centre


The retail chain Asda is appealing against the decision to prevent it building a new supermarket in Newtownards, County Down.


In June the environment minister refused a planning application for the 4,000 sq m development at the site of the former Scrabo High School.


The then minister, Alex Attwood, said the development would have an adverse impact on Newtownards town centre.


Asda already has a store at the Ards Shopping Centre.


The company and their development partner, Turkington Holdings, have lodged an appeal with the Planning Appeals Commission that is due to be heard in January 2014.


The application for the new development stated the existing premises "no longer provide the customer experience Asda wish to deliver".


The proposed development also includes three non-food shop units, a petrol station and a park and ride.


Formal objections to the scheme were lodged by Tesco and the owners of Ards Shopping Centre, Belfast Office Properties.


Letters of support for the Asda scheme were lodged by Scrabo Residents Association and several DUP politicians, including the local MP, Jim Shannon.




25th September, 2013



Three new restaurants set to open in Belfast city centre


Bourbon - 60 Great Victoria Street, Belfast


Workmen are currently fitting out a new restaurant at 46-50 Howard Street, in a unit formerly occupied by high-end menswear store, The Bureau.

It's understood the new eatery will be known as Flame though it's not clear when it will open.

Just a few doors down, at 56 Howard Street, in premises which once fitted out tall men in the High and Mighty store, will be the home of the eponymously named 'Howard Street'.

Construction only began last Saturday but a newly-registered company called Howard Street Limited applied for a liquor licence in August.

Fellow restaurateurs in Belfast took to Twitter to wish company directors Martin Murphy and Niall Davis the best of luck on their new venture.Tony O'Neill, chef and co-owner of high-profile restaurants including Coppi and the Barking Dog, was among those wishing the new venture the best for "the new opening" expected to take place on October 25.

Around the corner at Great Victoria Street it's understood another new restaurant will replace the now defunct Bourbon restaurant and its successor, Restaurant Victoria. There were no clues on the name for the third eatery – within five minutes' walk of the new openings on Howard Street – but it's understood that a chef and financial backer have been secured. This latest wave of restaurants comes amid a healthy appetite among consumers for dining out in the city centre, also evidenced by plans for new venues in the city's Cathedral Quarter.

It also follows the demise of two formerly trendy establishments: firstly Paul Rankin's Cayenne at Shaftesbury Square, Belfast, closed its doors amid flag protests and a bleak economy last March, seeing a reversal of fortunes for a chef once inextricably linked with the city's restaurant scene.

And Nick Price closed the doors at Nick's Warehouse in the Cathedral Quarter – although new restaurants from James Street South's Niall McKenna and Made in Belfast's Emma Bricknell are opening near the old Nick's.


Council faces wait to hear public's opinion on £8m plans for Bangor town centre



Architect Iain Halliday's design
Architect Iain Halliday's design

Some councillors believed that they would be briefed on public feedback at Tuesday night's meeting (September 24) but it is now understood that the report will not be going to the Council's Corporate Committee until October 8.


Feedback on the scheme is still being collated by the Council's development Services Team who report to the Corporate and Development Committee, meaning that it will be at least another month before councillors have access to the outcome.


The public had been asked to give their feedback for the multi-million pound investment for the Bangor and Holywood areas over a three week consultation period.


Original plans suggested by the development team and open for feedback included new natural stone paving to footpaths, street furniture, street lighting, tree and shrub planting and public art as well as restoring Hamilton Road to two way traffic.


Many residents reportedly used the consultation to complain about the delays over the redevelopment of Queen's Parade, which is a completely separate issue.


This week an alternative version of the public realm scheme created by local architect Iain Halliday came into circulation.


Mr Halliday's vision for the town includes pedestrianising Main Street from the Hamilton Road junction to the seafront, shop redesign, re-positioning Bangor market and increasing parking facilities across the town centre and at the former site of Bangor Castle Leisure Centre.


Commenters on the For A Better Bangor Facebook page largely welcoming of the alternative plans with Hilary Ruth Simpson commenting: "So much better than the council plans and seems to have the spirit of Bangor at it's heart." While Jenny kirkwood said: "Just love the fact that someone has taken the trouble to come up with an alternative, and give constructive criticism of the council's plan."


Meanwhile there are fears that pressure group resistance to long term Department of Regional Development plans to redevelop Queen's Parade could lead to a full public enquiry, meaning that construction would be vastly delayed.




23rd September, 2013


NI village to teach 'safety' lessons to children

An artist's impression of the new village in east Belfast
An artist's impression of the new village in east Belfast


Northern Ireland is to get its first state-of-the art village built to teach safety to young people.


The facility in east Belfast will feature a road crossing, police station, court room, dark alleyway, farm scenario and park scene.


Three new jobs and 20 part-time jobs will be created at the Harbour Court complex.


The village will provide interactive safety-focused experiences for children and young people up to the age of 24.


Key issues of personal safety are covered along with vandalism, drugs and alcohol, the consequences of crime, anti-social behaviour, environmental responsibilities and what to do in an emergency.


Primary Six and Primary Seven children will experience dangerous situations and scenarios within a risk free environment.


They will have an opportunity to learn ways in which everyday hazards can be prevented, avoided or managed.


Young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 year will be able to explore issues around personal safety and social responsibility along with an insight into the consequence of actions.


RADAR is the result of a multi agency partnership headed up by the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service.


Environment Minister Mark H Durkan announced planning permission for the facility saying it would "play a vital role" in the safety of children.


"RADAR will become a crucial resource where children and young people will be taught vital life skills that will remain with them throughout their lives," he said.


"I am particularly passionate about this scheme as it promotes strategies that help children and young people deal with emergency and dangerous situations in a safe and secure environment."


Fifteen such centres exist within the UK, primarily concerned with working with children and young people within the age ranges of 10-11 years and 16-24.




David Ford and Edwin Poots in Ministerial row over new emergency services training college



Northern Ireland's justice minister David Ford



THE justice minister has gone over the head of a ministerial colleague in a bid to get construction of the long-delayed emergency services training college under way.


It was reported last night that Health Minister Edwin Poots has not signed off on the college planned for Desertcreat, Co Tyrone.


Mr Ford has already signed off and, according to UTV, has written to the first and deputy first ministers asking for an "urgent procedure" to bypass Mr Poots' involvement.


Mr Ford told UTV: "At the moment I have sent a paper to the Executive about advancing the Desertcreat project as fast as possible to ensure we get the best possible training facility for the three services as soon as we can."


Mr Ford believes that if the project does not proceed urgently, the funding will be lost.


But last night Mr Poots said he was acting to defend jobs, amid fears that one of the companies involved in building the college is in financial difficulties.


Work was due to start next month on the project, which is almost £20m over budget, and future funding is now in doubt, according to Mr Ford. As Mr Poots' department includes the Fire Service, who will be trained at the college, his approval is needed.


Last night, Mr Poots denied the funding was under threat, but said he wanted to proceed with caution.


Spanish construction company FCC, one of the consortium involved in the project, in is serious financial difficulty. In March, the Financial Times reported that it had £6.7bn of debt.


"The company is heavily indebted and the assurances that we want are not absolutely clear as yet," said Mr Poots.


An accountancy firm has been appointed to review its finances before building work starts.


The DUP minister said he wanted to avoid another situation where local businesses went bust due to bills not being paid on time, as had occurred in previous building projects.


"I will be insisting that contractors are paid directly, as I don't want another David Patton circumstance arising where sub contractors are left with unpaid bills, putting other companies out of business," he said.


"I am being very careful about this, I make no apology for it because it's very important we ensure that the sub-contracted companies have protection."



Ministers at loggerheads on Desertcreat


Justice Minister David Ford has urged the First and deputy First Minister to move ahead on the Police, Fire and Prison Training College at Desertcreat after the project was brought to a stalemate by Health Minister Edwin Poots.

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A letter obtained by UTV details how the Alliance minister has written to the NI leaders for an "urgent procedure" on the building.


It was expected the sod would be cut on the site near Cookstown, Co Tyrone in October, after previous delays, but this is now extremely unlikely as a preferred bidder has still not been made public.


But even if construction does start in February, it would be May 2016 before the college is finished.


PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie has expressed concern over the delays.


"We are obviously negotiating with the relevant ministers to make sure that if that money is under threat that there are arrangements to bring it forward to the next spending review period," she told UTV.


Minister Ford said in the document that he feared that "if the project does not proceed urgently, the funding available in the current 2011-2015 period will be lost to the Northern Ireland economy."


The current estimated cost of the project now stands at £157.2m, which is £18.2m over budget.


If the project does not go ahead in the planned time frame, Mr Ford says there will be "a potential funding gap of £30m".


UTV understands Minister Poots' reservations on the build are due to the involvement of Spanish company FCC and their current financial situation.


The company made losses of over €140m between January 2012 to March this year, and had debts of over €7bn.


SDLP MLA for Mid Ulster Patsy McGlone said there needs to be an update on the status of the project.


He said: "We decided today to invite ministers, not just the Justice Minister but the Health Minister too, along to our next meeting to find out just what is happening with a major project which would mean so much for policing and our local economy.


"Why is it being delayed?"


UUP MLA for the area Sandra Overend also demanded answers.


"Not only when is the first sod going to be cut for the new college but is it going to happen?


"I'm hearing it from local businesses and people in the area who are wondering when is this college coming to Tyrone and is it really going to be built? That's the question."



Titanic Quarter: Office plan biggest since 2007


The focal point of the Titanic Quarter is the visitors' centre


The focal point of the Titanic Quarter is the visitors' centre

Plans have been submitted for one of the biggest office developments in Belfast since the credit crunch of 2007.


The 190,000 sq ft area in the Titanic Quarter will cost £20m to develop.


The site, beside Belfast Metropolitan College's Titanic Quarter campus, is empty after initial development plans for the area stalled in 2008.


No tenants are signed up, but if plans are approved, there are plans to complete construction by 2015.


The development company behind Titanic Quarter is hoping the new offices will be filled by firms providing hi-tech support to the financial services industry.


David Gavaghan, Titanic Quarter's CEO, said: "As we see the first tangible signs that we are moving out of one of the longest economic recessions in the last century, it is time to ensure that Belfast can continue to offer potential investors flexible, modern, high-end business accommodation."




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