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Belfast's Robinson Centre to be razed as council approves two new leisure complexes

By Staff Reporter

A Belfast leisure centre named after former DUP first minister Peter Robinson is to be demolished and replaced.

Two major new leisure facilities in east and west Belfast were given the green light last night. Planning permission was granted for the redevelopment of the Robinson Centre in Castlereagh and the Brook Activity Centre in Twinbrook.

The developments are part of Belfast City Council's £105m programme to improve leisure centres, programmes and services across the city.

The £20m transformation of the Robinson Centre will see the existing leisure and community centres replaced with a state-of-the-art facility, with the emphasis on aquatics.

The Robinson Centre, located off the Castlereagh Road, closed in February last year due to health and safety concerns.

The cost of removing the asbestos and legionella on-site was estimated at £5m. That prompted the council's decision to demolish it and rebuild.

It is not known if the new leisure centre will retain Mr Robinson's name.

It will feature a 25m eight-lane gala pool with 250 spectator seats, a 20m-long training pool and leisure water provision, as well as a four-court sports hall, 140-station fitness suite, fitness studio and outdoor five-a-side pitches, with a new community centre incorporated into the building.

The emphasis of the £15m rebuilding of the Brook Activity Centre will be the development of outdoor leisure provision, a new GAA pitch, with two football pitches across its width, three indoor and three outdoor five-a-side pitches, 10 team changing rooms, a hurling wall, playground, and a 'trim trail'. It will also include a 25-metre four-lane swimming pool, five-court sports hall and 60-station fitness suite.

"We are delighted to see our leisure transformation programme moving forward," said Councillor Peter Johnston, chairman of the council's planning committee.

"This programme is a substantial investment in the future health and well-being of both the city and its citizens, with each of the new centres deliberately designed to offer different facilities. We now look forward to construction work on both these projects beginning over the summer, and to the facilities becoming operational in the early part of 2019."

Councillors also gave the go-ahead to revised plans for Belfast's biggest, and tallest, hotel.

Planning permission previously had been granted for the conversion of the former Windsor House into the Grand Central Hotel, with 200 bedrooms plus serviced apartments and offices. The revised plans will see the hotel expanding to 304 rooms.

"The development of the Grand Central is very much a cornerstone of the regeneration of this part of the city centre in general and the Linen Quarter in particular", said Mr Johnston.

"With the construction of two brand new hotels, in Brunswick Street and Hope Street already well under way, these developments, along with others for which we already have granted planning permission, are providing valuable jobs in our construction, tourism and hospitality industries, as well as meeting the needs of our expanding city centre, as laid out in the Belfast Agenda."

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