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Construction project funds withheld

The suspension of £110 million of state funding for the Royal Exchange construction project in Belfast city centre has led to fears the work may be permanently scrapped.

Northern Ireland’s Department for Social Development decided to hold back the cash this year because it said progress on the job is slow and the funds could be used elsewhere.

A spokesman for the department denied local media reports that the project had been put on hold. He said: “We have signed the agreement with the developer who must submit the planning application by 31 October 2010.

“We will allocate the money to the scheme when it is actually needed and would now like to use some of the money set aside for it for regeneration projects to renew our urban centres, increase confidence in our neighbourhoods and provide much-needed jobs in the construction sector.”

Royal Exchange Ltd, the consortium overseeing the project around Donegall Street and Royal Avenue, said the work will be going ahead.

A spokesman said: “The timetable has been agreed with DSD (Department for Social Development) and we continue to undertake the detailed work that will allow us to submit our planning application later this year.”