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Planners back George Best hotel and ball passes to Belfast councillors

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The George Best hotel in Belfast city centre

The George Best hotel in Belfast city centre

Freddie Parkinson

The George Best hotel in Belfast city centre

The long-awaited George Best Hotel looks set to finally get the green light after months of wrangling with planners, it has emerged.

Planning authorities have recommended approval of the city centre development, which has been shrouded in controversy, and the matter is due to be discussed by councillors at a meeting of the planning committee at Belfast City Hall on Thursday night.

However, the approval of the 63-bed hotel, is subject to a series of conditions after the proposed conversion of the Scottish Mutual Building has been plagued by objections from neighbouring businesses and planning authorities.

Outstanding issues with the plans include the need for further details about a proposed new fire escape and a requirement for the window frames to be painted a darker colour than the white suggested in the current plans.

The developer has also been told that original architraves, mouldings and skirtings on the fifth floor must be retained and repaired, with work only carried out when it is absolutely necessary.

Original doors should only be upgraded if it is required in order to meet fire safety regulations, planners have said.

Advising councillors ahead of Thursday's meeting, the planning department said that a number of proposed amendments to the plans are considered "unacceptable" to the Historical Environment Division, but said "on balance, the proposed alterations to the listed building are considered acceptable to allow for a modern hotel use and meeting requirements for fire safety, thermal and acoustic insulation".

It added: "The proposal will provide employment within the hotel of course, but also a number of short term construction jobs.

"It will bring an injection of vitality to this area of Bedford Street and Donegall Square South. The increased footfall to the area will also boost trade for local retailers."

The controversial George Best Hotel is one of two major hotel developments due to be discussed at this Thursday's meeting.

Also on the agenda is a proposed 276-bed hotel close earmarked for the Titanic Quarter.

Planners have said the project, which includes conference facilities, restaurant, cafe and rooftop bar, should get the go ahead.

"Having had regard to the extant development plan, the draft development plan, relevant planning policies, planning approvals in the area, economic benefits and other material considerations the proposed development is considered on balance acceptable," the planners added.

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