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Belfast Sirocco site being sold to UK buyer for development

EXCLUSIVE

By John Mulgrew

Published 08/11/2016

It's now understood that the St Francis Group is designing a master plan for the Sirocco site in east Belfast
It's now understood that the St Francis Group is designing a master plan for the Sirocco site in east Belfast

The Sirocco site in east Belfast - due to be developed in a £300m project - is finally being sold to a new UK buyer, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

It's now understood that the St Francis Group is designing a master plan for the huge site, and, alongside two other investors, is about to complete a deal to take on the huge 16-acre area.

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Earlier this year the Belfast Telegraph revealed a previous deal to take it on had fallen through, after part of the Sirocco site was slapped with a Government conservation order. And the former buyer was also worried about the impact of Brexit. The vision for the development previously included a financial services hub and a media hub, with speculation growing that the BBC may be interested in moving to the area.

No one from St Francis Group was available for comment yesterday.

But it's understood a deal will complete in the next few weeks for the site, with plans being drawn up soon after.

A limited company has also been set up called 'Swinford (Sirocco) Limited', established in July this year, which lists its address as that of the St Francis Group in Henley-In-Arden, which is around 20 miles from Birmingham.

The firm specialises in property development and investment, and specialises in work on brownfield sites.

Some of its other projects and acquisitions include the 370-acre Sundon Quarry in Bedfordshire.

The current buyers were among a number of potential investors which were shown the Sirocco site over the last year.

It had been owned by US vulture fund Cerberus.

During the summer, the Historical Monuments Council of the Department for Communities issued an order on around 1.6 acres of the area, because of archaeological issues involving the remains of a former glass factory.

There had been concerns that working up a new plan could take up to a year now that the conservation order has been applied.

At one stage, the quays were to have been transformed in a £600m investment by owner Carvill Group, which later went into administration. The sprawling industrial area has now been sitting largely disused for years.

Meanwhile, a major hotel company is eyeing up a new site in Belfast and a further 15 businesses have expressed an interest in investing in the city following a trade trip to Cannes.

The council is returning to the MIPIM event next year, after a delegation - including 53 people and 23 sponsoring organisations - attended back in May.

The global trade show will run from March 14-17 next year.

The council says that "15 expressions of interest to visit Belfast were made by major institutional investors and a number of funders sourced at MIPIM are now actively investing in developments or very seriously considering investments in the very near future." It adds that a "significant hotel company is now also actively seeking a site here".

Belfast Telegraph

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