£250m plan to develop site at Belfast's docks given green light
Project approved despite fears over nearby listed buildings
A major commercial development at Belfast's historic docks has been given the green light despite fears over the impact it may have on nearby landmark buildings.
Environment Minister Mark H Durkan announced outline planning permission for the City Quays 1 development plan.
It will be located on a peninsula site between the Clarendon wet dock and the River Lagan close to where the old Seacat ferry terminal used to be.
In the past that area was dominated by busy docks, the stately Harbour Commissioners Office and the historic Sinclair Seaman's Church.
Now the 20-acre site will move into the 21st century as it becomes host to a five-storey office building, hotel, cafes, restaurants, retail outlets and parking.
The value of the development has been put at £250m. However, the Historic Monuments section of the Department of the Environment expressed concerns over the impact the high rise new building would have on the older listed buildings.
The Environment Minister said while he took concerns on board, he felt the benefits of the planned development outweighed them.
Mr Durkan said the development will boost that area of Belfast. "It will revitalise a site which has been underused for a number of years," he added.
"The mix of residential and business uses plus a hotel, small scale retail services and restaurants will make this a vibrant hub which is more accessible for everyone. It will also provide a better link from the city centre along the river on the east of the M3 to the maritime heritage currently preserved at the heart of the site.
"This approval will provide much needed high specification office accommodation in an attractive waterfront location.
"Having this in place should help attract investment and encourage further job creation, particularly when added to the other recent planning approval for the Belfast Harbour Commissioners at this site."
Mr Durkan said he did take into consideration fears over the proximity of the two listed buildings.
"In making my decision I did take on board concerns about the potential impact of the development on the setting of two listed buildings, the Harbour Commissioners Office and the Sinclair Seamen's Church," he said.
"I have concluded that on balance the regeneration potential of the development coupled with the prospective economic benefits and associated job creation outweighs these concerns.
"This decision is shaping a planning system that delivers for business balanced with the protection of our environment. A system that builds a better environment and a stronger economy."
The planning application was submitted by the Belfast Harbour Commissioners.
Graeme Johnston, Belfast Harbour's property director, said the project will help connect the area to the city centre.
"City Quays is an extension of the highly successful Clarendon Dock development," he added.
"The 20-acre development will regenerate a significant section of Belfast's waterfront and help reconnect the river frontage to the city centre.
"City Quays is an office-led, mixed-use scheme which will be of particular appeal to potential inward investors and growing local businesses.
"Construction is underway for the first office in the development.
"This award of outline planning approval for the entire scheme will enable Belfast Harbour to progress more detailed plans and showcase the full City Quays project to potential investors."