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A new chapter in story of Belfast Central Library as major revamp is planned

By Noel McAdam

Published 02/11/2016

Landmark: Belfast’s Central Library
Landmark: Belfast’s Central Library

A massive revamp of Belfast Central Library is on the cards - almost 120 years after it opened.

But work could mean the Royal Avenue building having to shut for more than a year.

Confirmation of the plans came as a Book Week initiative - aimed at getting more of us reading - went into full swing.

If it gets the go-ahead, the new design for Northern Ireland's biggest library will not become a reality until 2019 at the earliest.

An outline business case for the project has already been completed by Libraries NI, but the body is yet to seek funding for the work.

Aside from a restoration of the landmark library, there would also be a new building at the rear.

Opened in 1888, it was among the first major public libraries in Ireland and remains a fine example of civic Victorian architecture.

Originally, the top floor comprised a museum and art gallery.

The building survived the Belfast Blitz during the Second World War, as well as regular city centre bombs during the Troubles.

A statement from Libraries NI said: "As part of an ongoing programme of investment in public library facilities, Libraries NI is working to create a project which would modernise and improve the existing Belfast Central Library facility.

"An outline business case has been prepared proposing the restoration of the original Central Library building on Royal Avenue, plus a new building to the rear of the iconic listed building aimed at providing some 9,000 m2 of public library space.

"However, development proposals are at an early stage and Libraries NI has yet to secure the necessary approvals and funding needed to take the project forward.

"Any funding bid for the potential redevelopment of Belfast Central Library would be made initially to the Department for Communities.

"It is important to stress that the redevelopment plans for Belfast Central Library are still at an early stage and it is therefore not appropriate to comment on options contained within the proposals."

Communities Minister Paul Givan's department said: "The Department for Communities can confirm that Libraries NI has completed an outline business case for the redevelopment of Belfast Central Library."

The department added that the plans were at an early stage.

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