Belfast Telegraph

Belfast council to approve £65m office building plan

By John Mulgrew

The proposal for a £65m office block to replace a Belfast city centre cinema looks set to get the green light next week. Under the project, the Movie House on Dublin Road will be replaced by a 12-storey building with a capacity for 3,000 staff, called One Bankmore Square.

The scheme was 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.

Belfast City Council has put the scheme up for approval ahead of next week's planning committee meeting on Tuesday.

"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.

"The design scale and mass are considered acceptable. The location, adjacent to Bankmore Square, while not typical in the area, is ameliorated and its impact somewhat reduced by the setting of the large open space area of Bankmore Square, which creates a space within which a building of such scale can sit more comfortably.

"There will be no detrimental impact on amenity."

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.

The development received a 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".

Regarding concerns that the office building would lead to a loss of "green space", planners said the "landscape proposals create a much more attractive location which will enhance the public realm".

The development is spearheaded by property developers and financial investment firm the Richland Group.

The 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.

In March, Gary McCausland said: "We have assembled a brilliant home-grown professional team to deliver this exciting project and we look forward to seeing it through to completion in 2020."

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

Simon McEvoy, head of office agency at Savills, said: "The Richland Group envisages the reinvigoration of the existing natural amenity as central to the new development."

Planning consultant Clyde Shanks said the application was the "culmination of a highly collaborative and engaging pre-application discussion process with Belfast City Council, its consultees and members of the public".

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