Belfast's council-run Waterfront Hall banners don't have permission from council
Belfast's Waterfront Hall does not have planning permission for two enormous banners on its new £29m extension, it can be revealed.
They run the full height on two sides of the controversial extension, which only opened its doors last month.
But the Belfast City Council-run concert and conference venue doesn't have official permission for them.
The council has been responsible for planning powers for just over a year after control was devolved from Stormont, so this will result in a few red faces at Belfast City Hall.
The Waterfront extension has been in the headlines amid criticism of its design.
Andy Stephens, from Matrix Planning Consultancy, said that while the legislation allowed for retrospective planning permission to be granted, the council should set an example.
"Since April 1 last year planning functions have been delegated to each of the 11 councils and include responsibility for preparing development plans, determining the majority of local planning applications and investigating breaches of planning control," he said. "The council should be leading by example to ensure the integrity of the planning system and that confidence in it is not undermined.
"Much as the council would expect any private developer to obtain advertising consent in advance of it being displayed, the council must be seen to be operating in the same fashion."
Mr Stephens claimed the large banners - which feature the word 'Welcome' in a variety of languages - do not meet criteria that could exempt them from requiring permission.
"I would deem it to construe an advertisement, and therefore the owner and occupier of the land on which the advertisement is displayed is required to obtain consent to advertise from the local planning authority," he explained.
A spokeswoman for The Waterfront said: "Two banners were placed on the new extension in support of the opening of the new facility.
"These have proved to be successful and Belfast Waterfront and Ulster Hall Limited now intend to submit a planning application for banner sites."
Ulster Unionist councillor Chris McGimpsey, who sits on the planning committee at the City Hall, said that while he was disappointed permission had not been secured, and that someone "has slipped up", the issue could be rectified.
"We are careful, but we are not infallible," he added.
"We are careful to meet by-law approval."
Last year it was reported that Belfast City Council had been running a section of a car park without the required planning permission.
The embarrassing revelation came after an unofficial car park close to Belfast City Airport was forced to close after being refused permission by the council.