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Approval for Belfast linen warehouse plan expected despite objection

By John Mulgrew

Concerns have been raised over plans to redevelop a former Belfast linen warehouse into office space.

The B+ listed Ewarts building on Bedford Street is due to be redeveloped and altered, alongside plans for a second new 17-storey building, linked by a second-floor walkway.

While it's due to get the green light at tonight's Belfast City Council planning committee meeting, the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society (UAHS) has written to planning to say there is not enough information about the impact the proposal will have on the listed building. It is also concerned that demolition work could lead to the "unintended" loss of other areas.

Bedford Street Properties - a joint venture between McAleer & Rushe and Ewart Properties - is proposing alteration, refurbishment and extension of the building to provide grade A office accommodation with basement car parking.

UAHS chief executive Nikki McVeigh said there was no clear commitment in the plans to the retention of the roof, adding: "With the removal of large amounts of historic fabric, including significant elements of the exterior supporting walls, there is a clear risk of instability or structure failure jeopardising other elements intended for retention."

The front of the listed Ewarts Linen Warehouse will remain as a nod to Belfast's manufacturing past, while the back will reflect the modern city. Vacant for two decades, the four-storey sandstone building was designed by James Hamilton, also the architect of the Waring Street Ulster Bank, now the Merchant Hotel.

Ms McVeigh is asking the council to remove the application from tonight's meeting until the UAHS concerns are resolved.

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