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Tourism boss defends controversial extension of Belfast's Waterfront Hall, already dubbed 'The Sore on the Shore'

By Claire McNeilly

Published 21/09/2015

Under attack: the extension to Belfast’s Waterfront Hall
Under attack: the extension to Belfast’s Waterfront Hall

The new chief executive of Tourism Northern Ireland has defended the controversial extension of Belfast's Waterfront Hall.

John McGrillen has said the building's detractors - who have already dubbed it 'The Box on the Docks' and 'The Sore on the Shore' - should wait until work has finished before casting judgment.

"I agree with the architects that people are coming to conclusions before the building is actually finished," he said.

"People also have to realise that it's a development which has had to work within a space constraint in terms of the site and, probably more importantly, within a budgetary constraint in terms of the amount of public money available.

"There could have been more elaborate designs done, but we have to live within the available budgets."

Alternative designs from the building's original architects, Robinson McIlwaine, emerged in the midst of the controversy, showing how the extension could have looked had it won the contract instead of Todd Architects.

Their proposal - a glass-panelled building that wouldn't have obscured the original Waterfront Hall - was understood to have been more competitively priced than its rival.

But Mr McGrillen slammed any suggestion that another firm could have done a better job given the constraints of the project.

"To my knowledge, the cost of those designs was never fully worked through," he said.

"That was never a fully blown proposal at any point.

"Those were concepts which were drawn up at the time, but there is no doubt that had they been developed, the cost of those would have been substantially greater than the current design."

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