Belfast Telegraph

£65m office development to replace Movie House on Dublin Road approved by Belfast City Council

By John Mulgrew

A £65m office development which will replace the Movie House on Dublin Road has been given the go ahead by Belfast City Council.

The cinema will now be replaced by a 12-storey building with a capacity for 3,000 staff, called One Bankmore Square.

It was given planning approval at Tuesday night's Belfast City Council planning committee meeting.

Plans for one of Northern Ireland's largest office schemes were revealed by the Belfast Telegraph last year.

It is the brainchild of the Richland Group, which is headed by Co Tyrone property developer Gary McCausland.

The green light was welcomed by Mr McCausland, who attended the planning committee meeting.

“We’re delighted with this outcome and excited that we can now concentrate on delivering One Bankmore Square, Northern Ireland's most ambitious office scheme to the market and continue to progress discussions with potential occupiers," he said.

"The level of interest and positivity around the project locally and internationally has been very positive & to be named Key Development Scheme and ‘Pick of Projects’ at MIPIM 2017 was a great honour for the One Bankmore Square team and recognition of the magnitude and importance of the development for Belfast & indeed Northern Ireland".

Belfast City Council had put the scheme up for approval ahead the meeting.

"Having had regard to the development plan's relevant planning policies and all other material considerations, it is recommended that the proposal should be approved subject to conditions," planners said.

It received several complaints, primarily from residents living in the nearby Park Avenue apartment building.

That included concerns over shadowing, noise and that the building would be "out of character with the area".

However, planners said the "increased height is unlikely to cause an unacceptable detrimental impact", and that a "building of this scale is not considered to be out of character within a city centre location".

Those behind the scheme are also ploughing £1m into redeveloping the local area. The contribution is part of what is known as a Section 76 agreement.

Councillor Peter Johnston, chair of the council’s planning committee, said: "As our figures show, there is an acute and increasing demand for Grade A office accommodation in the city, and we are delighted to have been able to take this latest development to the next stage.

"We worked very closely with the developer to ensure that this application was turned around as quickly and efficiently as possible.  From the plans being lodged to tonight’s decision, it has taken just eight weeks to process this application. 

"This demonstrates the Planning Service’s commitment to working with those wishing to drive forward development in the city, and to fulfilling the aims of the Belfast Agenda in terms of job creation."

The Richland Group already has an extensive property portfolio including The Gallery apartment complex, which is also on the Dublin Road, and several developments in London and Paris.

The scheme is being jointly marketed by commercial property agents Savills and Lambert Smith Hampton.

Simon McEvoy, head of office agency at Savills, said: “Throughout the planning process the Richland Group has taken a proactive approach of engagement with the Planning Authorities and it is a great to have the Section 76 developer’s contribution agreed as this will streamline the delivery of One Bankmore Square."

Planning consultant Clyde Shanks said: “The committee has pleasingly endorsed the quality of the planning application submission which was informed by a very well managed pre-application discussion process which had a strong focus and highly committed input from senior officers in the Council."

And Dougie Wheeler from Lambert Smith Hampton, said: “There is a large team of professionals and a lot of time already invested into One Bankmore Square and everyone is very eager to move the project to the next stage of starting onsite and seeing their plans & designs become a reality.”

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