Northern Ireland

Titanic project faces EU grant shortfall

The building is due to open in time for the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic in April 2012.
Image caption The building is due to open in time for the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic in April 2012.

The flagship Titanic Signature building in Belfast could be facing a £20m EU funding shortfall, the BBC has learned.

An application for grants towards the cost of the building is being queried by the European Commission.

According to a report due out next week, it has not yet approved the money. In its view, there was a lack of competition in the tendering for the construction of the building.

The Department of Enterprise had denied this and said the project is on course.

The funding application is now being examined by legal advisors on both sides.

The Titanic Signature Building, which could cost £90m, is the most expensive tourism project ever built in Northern Ireland and is being financed from a number of different sources.

Belfast City Council has given £10m, the Harbour Commissioners and the development company Titanic Quarter Limited have both paid more than £10m.

However, the biggest slice of funding, more than half, is coming from the Tourist Board and the Department of Trade and Investment (DETI).

DETI has applied for grants of 24 million euros, just over £20m.

The building is due to open in time for the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic in April 2012.

In a statement, DETI said the project was on course to be opened as planned on 31 March 2012 in time for the 100-year anniversary of the Titanic's maiden voyage.

"EU funding is irrelevant to the successful completion of the project. If funding is not drawn down against Titanic Belfast, it will be drawn down against other projects," it said.

"However DETI is optimistic that it can address the EU's queries. For these reasons, the issue was not raised with the Enterprise, Trade and Investment Committee."

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