The construction of a new £1.5bn Titanic Quarter development for Belfast yesterday moved a step closer after the planners gave its second phase the green light.
Environment Minister Arlene Foster announced outline planning permission has been given for the second stage of a scheme that will bring 20,000 jobs over the next 15 years to the site once occupied by the world- famous Belfast shipyard.
Phase two of the quarter at Queen's Island in the east of the city will see the creation of 2,000 residential units and a mix of buildings earmarked for employment, leisure and cultural tourism uses.
It will cover the restoration of the Titanic and Olympic slipways and the Titanic Signature Project, aimed at showcasing Belfast's maritime and industrial heritage.
The Environment Minister praised the Planning Service for the way it handled Northern Ireland's largest- ever planning application; it was received back in January.
Mrs Foster said the second stage of Titanic Quarter would provide three million sq ft of new floorspace in Belfast over 16.5 hectares. The largest waterfront development project in Europe, it will eventually cover 75 hectares (185 acres).
She said it represented a further step in the development of the city.
"It is a major confidence boost for the economy and the building industry, which will provide long-term economic benefits to the whole of Northern Ireland," said Mrs Foster.
The second stage will feature 200,000 sq m of residential development and 37,000 sq m of floorspace for employment uses.
Around 5,000 sq m has been earmarked for offices, 23,000 sq m for leisure uses, 11,300 sq m for tourism uses, 5,500 sq m for local services and 15,000 sq m for parking. Public realm and open space is included, too.
Titanic Quarter Ltd, which is co- promoting the development along with Belfast Harbour Commissioners, said it was excited about getting started on the second phase.
It also revealed that a concept masterplan has been developed for phase two, setting out an agreed development framework which will guide other planning applications to follow.
According to the company, work on the first stage is well under way.
Among the first structures taking shape is a 150,000 sq ft 'Gateway' office building featuring two six-storey blocks and a five-storey block.
There is also a major building featuring 475 apartments and a newly-built quay wall at Abercorn Basin.