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Residents' backlash over major Belfast student housing project

By John Mulgrew

Published 18/12/2015

Demolition work at Pakenham Street in Belfast
Demolition work at Pakenham Street in Belfast

Dozens of residents in south Belfast are objecting to a major student development which would see a nine-storey building being constructed, it can be revealed.

Work has already begun on the 160-apartment development on Dublin Road, with the existing building now demolished.

Planning has yet to be granted for the accommodation, a joint venture between Holywood-based Lacuna Developments and Welsh firm Watkin Jones.

More than 70 objections have been raised over the development at the former Willis insurance offices, close to the junction with Botanic Avenue.

Those opposed include a group called the Donegall Pass Community Forum, and the wider community of Donegall Pass. Others have been sent by residents living close to the site.

Some of the concerns raised in a letter on behalf of the Donegall Pass Community Forum say the building will "overlook and overshadow the residential properties in Pakenham Street".

It also suggests that, as Dublin Road is used as a main route for some Orange Order parades, the "development has the potential for violence and increased community tensions".

There are also concerns about "anti-social behaviour".

"This proposed development is situated in an area that already is highly problematic to drunkenness, bad behaviour, drug abuse, increased noise levels," one letter said.

"It is also situated yards from Ventry Lane hostel that houses category 1 & 2 sex offenders, which puts an unnecessary added risk to those who would rent here or visit."

Another letter raises issues about street parking and concerns over St Patrick's Day celebrations.

It's understood developers have met with residents to discuss concerns.

No one from the firms involved in the student housing project wished to comment.

The original building, which has now been knocked down, was constructed in 1986.

It suffered bomb damage following an explosion to the rear of Donegall Pass police station in 1992.

The same joint venture building the Dublin Road project is currently converting the former Belfast Metropolitan College building at College Square East into student flats.

The development is one of around a dozen proposed student buildings which, if they all go ahead, could add 7,000 new rooms to Belfast city centre.

The Dublin Road development isn't the first student scheme to raise eyebrows in Belfast.

In October planners recommended a smaller student housing development by Queen's University should not go ahead.

The proposed accommodation at Lennoxvale, off the Malone Road, was for a 102-room structure.

The application was refused amid concerns the new building would impact on the character of the area and "fails to respect the landscape features of the site".

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