James Hagan, founder and chairman of Hagan Homes, called on officials involved in the planning process in Northern Ireland to meet with local developers to address the issues they face. The businessman pleaded five months after deciding not to buy any new development sites in Northern Ireland.
Hagan – who is currently in Sydney, Australia, where he has moved to live with a new development – has built more than 4,000 homes in Northern Ireland in the company’s 34-year history.
He told an audience in a webinar hosted by MCG Investments’ Tanya McGeehan that unless Northern Ireland planning officials meet with developers to resolve the issues, he will not be returning.
He said: “My patience was exhausted and last year I made the decision not to purchase any further development sites in Northern Ireland. Previously each application was considered on its own merits with a presumption in favor of development.
“Now, unfortunately, you are working from a refusal and having to buy your way to an approval. The developer is increasingly asked to make financial contributions to things like the purchase of infrastructure when they should come out of one of the planning consultant’s budgets.”
He added: “Not all of the councils we deal with are the same, but there are three that have proven to be very difficult to work with and most of the developers who work in all of the councils in Northern Ireland know that. Most are afraid to raise the issues because they are afraid of the same officers causing them other issues.”
Hagan, who still has ten live developments here, urged those involved in the planning process, including MPs and NI Water, to confront the issues he faced and are currently facing his peers here.
“We need everyone to be seated around a table, from the biggest homebuilders to MPs. That means there’s nowhere to go. Then they can answer questions and stop blaming themselves. each other.
“Let’s go back to the old ways of sorting things out. Get everyone around the table, throw everything away and don’t get insulted. This is about solving problems, not creating problems.”
Tanya McGeehan, Managing Director of MCG Investments, added: “We need to see the public and private sectors working together to agree on a housing strategy and find practical solutions that allow responsible and sustainable development to thrive here.
“I support James’ suggestion that key industry representatives be brought to the table to find a way forward, to help keep the local construction industry moving and to stop major developers like Hagan Homes from leave Northern Ireland.”
Hagan Homes will be live with sites in Northern Ireland for the next five years, then cease operations to pursue projects in other countries.
“I didn’t want to have to make this announcement but my patience was running out. I don’t want to leave the place, I’m a domestic bird. I was raised on a farm in Doagh and while I’m enjoying The Australia and a different challenge, my heart is in Northern Ireland.”
Hagan is also planning a number of sustainable properties in Northern Ireland in partnership with former Australian rugby star Nick Farr-Jones in a franchise with Green Homes Australia.