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University of Ulster's campus plan a massive boost for city centre

By Lindsay Fergus

These are the stunning first impressions of what the new University of Ulster Belfast city campus will look like when it opens its doors in 2018.

The £250m investment in the heart of the Cathedral Quarter is expected to generate more than £1bn for the local economy in terms of jobs and spend over the next decade.

It will comprise four state-of-the-art interlinked buildings spanning 75,000 sq m — the size of Victoria Square — including the current provision at York Street.

University vice-chancellor Professor Richard Barnett said: “We are proposing a world-class campus in the heart of the city, which will not only provide a dynamic learning and research environment for our students and staff, but will also interact with the wider public.

“The new development also sends a strong message to the business community that the university values its engagement with them with a campus that will be on their doorstep, training staff and providing research and innovation expertise.

“From an educational point of view, our Belfast city campus will draw on our best international practice — providing facilities which not only meet 21st century teaching and learning needs, but which encourage new thinking and creativity among students and staff.

“At the same time, the design points to a new vision of how the city might develop as an attractive and vibrant centre for innovation and learning in the future.”

A planning application is due to be submitted to the Department of the Environment this month, with a decision anticipated in the autumn.

Environment Minister Alex Attwood yesterday said: “I have met or spoken with the University of Ulster on a number of occasions and I believe that the proposed move to York Street is right for the university and can be a good outcome for the north side of Belfast.

“I have made it very clear that planning applications should be progressed as quickly as possible.

“Indeed, major planning applications should be managed in a six-month time-frame. But applicants, including in this case the University of Ulster, must provide all information and all assistance to help decision-making.”

If the scheme, which has received £16m of public money, gets the green light, the development will go out to tender at the end of the year to allow construction to get under way in 2013.

That will provide a massive boost to the beleaguered construction industry.

John Armstrong, managing director of Construction Employers’ Federation (CEF), said: “This news will lift the spirits of the local construction industry.

“We estimate that this project will create or sustain up to 7,000 construction jobs as well as provide business for many other sectors.”

The campus will be built on land at York Street, York Lane, Frederick Street and Donegall Street and will be home to 15,000 students — eight times the amount currently based at York Street.

London-based architects Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios are behind the landmark design that will transform the Belfast city skyline.

The tiered buildings will be constructed using limestone, brick and cutting edge glass technology. Architectural features will include a grand facade, which will open up into a public mall and two glass ‘lanterns’ — modern day turrets.

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