Belfast Telegraph

Conservation order leads to major setback for Sirocco site development

Exclusive by John Mulgrew

The sale of the Sirocco site in east Belfast, which is due to be developed in a £300m project, is facing a major setback after it was slapped with a Government conservation order.

It is also believed the new buyer is concerned about the impact of a potential Brexit.

A sale deal for the site, which is owned by US vulture fund Cerberus, is understood to have been agreed in March.

But the Historical Monuments Council of the Department for Communities has issued an order on around 1.6 acres of the area because of archaeological issues involving the remains of a former glass factory.

The vision for the development includes a financial services hub and a media hub, with speculation growing that the BBC may be interested in moving to the area.

It is also understood that uncertainty surrounding next week's EU referendum could also be delaying the deal.

One source said the sale was agreed four months ago but has yet to be completed.

There are concerns that working up a new plan could take up to a year now that the conservation order has been applied.

"There's £296m of investment at stake here, and there's a risk to that," a source said.

"Some of the investors are becoming concerned about the possibility of Brexit, and this delay is another pressure."

The source also claimed a search of the Land Registry did not show any issues.

But after the sale was deemed to be agreed, the Historical Monuments Council placed an order on a 1.6-acre section of the site.

It is understood the buyer did not know about the order until several weeks later.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Communities said the site of the glassworks was "designated as a Scheduled Historic Monument on March 21".

"The remains of these 18th century Georgian industries were designated in recognition of the key role they played in the early evolution of the city of Belfast," the spokeswoman added.

The department said works within a "scheduled area are subject to having received a permission called scheduled monument consent in advance".

The status gives protection to "nationally important archaeological and historic sites to ensure their preservation".

The spokeswoman said it would be "anticipated that any potential developer will be involved in discussions" with the department over potential plans for any works in the area.

The site affected is understood to be close to the entrance of the long vacant area.

At one stage, the quays were to be transformed in a £600m investment by owner Carvill Group, which later went into administration. The sprawling industrial area has been sitting largely disused for years.

Plans for the development included 5,000 apartments, a hotel, an international convention centre, a supermarket and leisure and retail offerings.

Belfast Telegraph