Belfast Telegraph

£20m Belfast office plan 'redesigned' after concerns

By John Mulgrew

French developers behind a £20m office development earmarked for Belfast city centre are submitting fresh plans for the huge building after an independent report said it would have "considerable disadvantages" in relation to its surrounding area.

Stargime is planning to build a modern extension on to the former First Trust Bank building - designed by Queen's University architect Sir Charles Lanyon - at Queen's Square in the heart of the city.

That could involve adding a major 80,000 sq ft office building to the existing structure - much of which is listed and dates back to the 1850s. But a third-party report commissioned for Belfast City Council raised serious concerns over the "considerable disadvantages of the impact on both the listed building and the setting in the square".

In a letter, council planners told the developer it had until the middle of last month to submit revised plans, otherwise the council would base its planning recommendation for the scheme on the heavily criticised initial proposals.

A spokesman for the council told the Belfast Telegraph: "The latest situation on this is that some amended drawings have been received but have not been uploaded to the portal as the package of information required remains incomplete.

"The agent has advised that the full package of drawings and information will follow as soon as possible, when it then will be considered by the planning service."

It's understood the developers have spent the last year working around the concerns raised in the report, including the impact on listed buildings.

Architects Ostick and Williams have come up with a revised scheme, which has been submitted to Belfast City Council planners.

It's believed that while reduced in scale, the new plans will still include a large-scale grade A office.

In its design statement, planners had said the office scheme could be worth over £400m to the Northern Ireland economy over a 15-year period.

It could also add more than 150 construction jobs during its build. The office development received a number of letters of objection and concerns.

Stargime has also bought Graham House at Albert Square in Belfast city centre, and has plans to turn the building into a large office development. Stargime took it on in December 2015 and proposes to redevelop the site to provide up to 80,000 sq ft of grade A office accommodation.

Various developers, meanwhile, have plans under way for a number of major office developments in Belfast. These include the demolition of the Movie House cinema on Dublin Road, to be replaced by a £65m 12-storey block.

Meanwhile, developer Paddy Kearney has been given planning permission for a £55m office close to Central Station.

Belfast Telegraph