Belfast Telegraph

Developers behind £14m Belfast student block project slam planning snub

By John Mulgrew

Developers behind a Belfast student development worth £14m have said they are "surprised" and "concerned" at a planning recommendation that the building doesn't get the go-ahead.

The proposed 380-bedroom student development at Little Patrick Street, run by English firm UniCiti, is recommended for refusal during next week's planning committee meeting.

And the firm has said the building could be worth around £14m to Belfast's economy.

Planners said it "should be refused as insufficient amenity space and outlook has been provided within the scheme to ensure a quality residential environment for future residents, and insufficient information has been submitted".

They added that "the principle of purpose-built student accommodation has not been demonstrated to be acceptable given the lack of an approvable management plan and other amenity concerns".

But UniCiti said it has had no previous contact or discussion with planning officers over the "issue of amenity", in this case, the communal space in the building and the view from some rooms.

"We are surprised that Belfast City Council officers have brought this application to committee at this point, and are concerned that a recommendation for refusal has been made," a spokesman said.

"No previous correspondence or discussion with officers raised the issue of amenity. We have submitted the additional information, and an amended plan which proposes a solution. We have also requested that the application is removed from the schedule to allow time for planning officers to properly assess these plans, before bring the application back for the committee to determine."

UniCiti said there have been "no community objections to this scheme. This scheme would bring a £14m investment to Belfast. Together with our approved scheme at York Street, UniCiti will bring a total investment of £41m to this part of the city centre.

"No key planning issues such as height, bulk, scale and massing of the building have been raised. This application has been brought forward to committee prematurely. The matters raised in the officer report are easily resolved."

UniCiti has already been successful in getting approval for a bigger, 682-bedroom project, close-by at York Street.

Several other student developments have also been proposed close to the Ulster University's new campus. More than 1,600 new student rooms have now been granted permission in Belfast.

And a further 1,300 rooms are expected to get the green light by Belfast City Council's planning committee next week.

Meanwhile, a decision on a 156-bedroom project on the Dublin Road, which received dozens of objections from nearby residents, is also expected to get the green light next week.

Belfast Telegraph