Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 26 May 2016

£300m Northside Regeneration scheme for Belfast which could see popular pub the Sunflower demolished is refused planning permission

By John Mulgrew

Published 22/01/2016

What the plans could look like, and Pedro Donald outside The Sunflower
What the plans could look like, and Pedro Donald outside The Sunflower

A £300m project to redevelop the north of Belfast city centre has hit a roadblock, after it was refused outline planning permission.

The Northside Regeneration is planning develop a so-called “mixed use” development, close to Royal Avenue, which would include housing, retail, leisure and student accommodation.

But Belfast City Council has now put forward the development for refusal

The project hit the headlines last year, after it was revealed popular and award-winning pub The Sunflower could be knocked down as part of the plans.

A Save The Sunflower campaign was launched on social media, drawing support from more than 5,000 fans of Pedro Donald's popular tavern.

Northside is a consortium, chosen by the Department for Social Development (DSD) with the development, which is bounded by North Street, Royal Avenue, Donegall Street and Millfield.

The consortium, including global building firm Balfour Beatty and property developer Kevin McKay.

A spokeswoman for Northside said it “remains fully committed to the development of the lands designated by the DSD for regeneration”.

“Further to our submission of our outline planning application the planning authorities requested supplementary information on environmental impacts. The extent and scope of the information requested required more time than was available within the deadline set and regrettably this has resulted in our application being determined as “ deemed refused”.

“We will be resubmitting our application and re-entering the planning application process.

“It is important to note that our outline plan was developed following an extensive pre-planning community consultation process and took into account the views expressed throughout the process and particular consideration has been and will continue to be given to both listed and unlisted buildings of architectural and historic interest within the scheme.

“There have been concerns raised by a local councillor with Northside Regeneration Ltd regarding the Sunflower Bar and the development team will enter discussions with the owner of the property, where the bar is located, as part  the planning process .”

And The Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, which has previously objected to the scheme, said: “Whilst the deemed refusal is welcome, it may not mean that unlisted historic buildings in the area are safe.

“They are not protected against demolition and it is likely that another scheme for the area will emerge in due course.”

A spokesman for Belfast City Council said:

“Although Belfast City Council took on planning powers and functions in April 2015, the anticipated transfer of regeneration functions did not take place. Across Northern Ireland the Department of Social Development therefore remains in the lead for regeneration functions, including Northside in Belfast.

"The deemed refusal of the Northside Regeneration Ltd outline planning application on 18 January 2016 means Belfast City Council has no “comprehensive development” application for Northside to deal with at present; but there are other planning applications which the Council must determine within the Northside area.

“In taking planning decisions for this area, the Council will take into account the Council’s own strategy for the city centre, the adopted Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan and all other material planning policies and factors. The Council is fully aware of the value of heritage assets in the city centre and indeed has recently supported the listing, by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, of numerous buildings across the city.”

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