Titanic Quarter developers settle row with Belfast Harbour Commissioners
Dispute had threatened to delay new developments in waterfront area
Belfast’s Titanic Centre Photograph: Getty Images
A Belfast High Court battle that threatened to delay major new developments on Belfast’s waterfront has been settled. The city’s Harbour Commissioners and developer Titanic Quarter Ltd were locked in a dispute over a master agreement for the 185-acre site’s multi-million pound regeneration. But a judge was told on Thursday that the two sides have signed off on a new memorandum of understanding to resolve their differences.
Lord Justice Girvan agreed to stay the action, with both sides picking up their own legal bill.
The Commissioners and Titanic Quarter have worked together for more than a decade to deliver projects including a financial services centre and commercial, education, residential and leisure facilities.
The area also boasts the Titanic Belfast visitor attraction, film studios and the Northern Ireland Science Park. Other schemes for which planning permission has already been granted include office blocks and a new four-star boutique hotel.
Differences emerged over the interpretation of the master agreement signed by the parties back in 2004.
The Commissioners, who own the site, issued proceedings aimed at clarifying the terms of the contract with tenants Titanic Quarter which runs until 2030.
At the start of a scheduled three-day hearing it was claimed that the developer wanted to be able to take projects to its landlord as a “fait accompli”. In a counter allegation, Titanic Quarter’s barrister accused the Commissioners of trying to put up “roadblocks” to new developments. However, following out-of-court discussions, it was announced on Thursday that a memorandum of understanding has been drawn up. It acknowledges the master agreement as being a framework agreement with obligations on both parties.
They are to consider all proposals with an open mind, honestly and with a view to reaching agreement, if possible.
Stephen Shaw QC, for the Commissioners, confirmed neither side has an unqualified veto on any particular project. Instead, he pointed out, the parties have to consult and act in good faith.
The memorandum does not require justification of any refusal of a development scheme.
Mr Shaw stressed: “Subject to acting in good faith there’s no obligation on either party to agree to any particular master plan.”
Updates to an Acceptable Development Framework dating from 2003 are also expected to be made. Congratulating everyone involved in the resolution, Lord Justice Girvan said: “As far as the future is concerned the court hopes matters will proceed well between the parties, and for the benefit of Belfast and Northern Ireland.”