Date is set for Victoria Square residents' appeal hearing in multi-million pound compensation case

The defective apartments at Victoria Square in Belfast City Centre.The defective apartments at Victoria Square in Belfast City Centre.
The defective apartments at Victoria Square in Belfast City Centre.
​Residents evacuated from a Belfast apartment block over safety concerns have secured a date for their appeal against a failed multi-million pound compensation claim.

Lady Chief Justice Dame Siobhan Keegan listed the challenge by property owners in the Victoria Square complex for a two-day hearing in December.

But she was also told the appeal may become unnecessary if anticipated new legislation to allow legal action over defective buildings in Northern Ireland is fast-tracked.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Completed back in 2008, the Victoria Square residential development on Chichester Street has been empty for the past five years.

In April 2019 residents in all 91 apartments were told to move out following assessments of a structural column.

Ulster Garden Villages Ltd, a charity which owns more than half the flats, and individual owners joined forces to sue the builders and architects involved in the city centre development.

They claimed for structural defects, negligence and loss of value in a joint lawsuit estimated to be worth up to £25m.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Construction firms Farrans and Gilbert-Ash, along with architecture company Building Design Partnership, vehemently denied any liability.

In March, the three defendants successfully applied to have the action struck out at the High Court on the grounds that it was statute barred.

Under laws in Northern Ireland compensation claims for defective premises must be lodged within six years of a building being completed - unlike the 30 year timeframe in England and Wales.

A judge dismissed the action after finding that the apartment owners were caught by that limit.

That ruling is set to be challenged at the Court of Appeal.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

At a preliminary review today, it was confirmed that the case will be dealt with on December 12 and 13.

Meanwhile, amid widespread public sympathy for those who have lost their homes, Stormont Communities Minister Gordon Lyons has moved to introduce new legislation to bring Northern Ireland into line with the law in the rest of the UK.

He has already secured agreement from his Executive colleagues to use the accelerated passage procedure for the proposed laws.

During the court hearing, Dame Siobhan asked how those developments may impact on the case.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Barristers Sean Brannigan KC and Anna Rowan, appearing for Ulster Garden Villages and some of the other owners, expressed hope there will be legislative changes within the next two months.

According to Mr Brannigan, the appeal would then become redundant because the legal action could proceed.

He told the court: “If the legislation mirrors England and Wales… it would be a straight claim that you built something people can’t live in and had to be evacuated from.”