Belfast Methodist church to become £2m pub
Pub giant JD Wetherspoon has won the go-ahead for its £2m project to transform a former Belfast church into a bar.
The long-awaited decision to redevelop the Methodist Church on University Road marks progress for the plans three years after they were first lodged.
The building has suffered substantial water damage and its pews and organ have already been removed. But it still has original features including wrought ironwork, joinery and stone carvings.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Wetherspoon's chairman Tim Martin said: "I'm delighted - it's a great building and it will make a wonderful pub. It's a very big investment by us, it'll cost around £2m just in the development phase.
"We hope it will create around 60-70 jobs and become a catalyst for other investment in that area."
Mr Martin, who was born and educated here, previously warned that the condition of the church was deteriorating.
It now joins the chain's other new Belfast project, the former JJB Sports store on Royal Avenue, in awaiting a drinks' licence. Ulster Architectural Heritage Society chief executive, Nikki McVeigh, said: "Previous plans proposed the demolition of the adjoining historic church halls. These are complementary to the setting of the listed building, and we are pleased these have now been incorporated into future use.
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"The recently approved application has been in progress since 2014. Given the time it has taken to obtain permission, with regard to the building's current state of repair, it is now of urgent importance that restoration proceeds, as soon as possible."