Belfast Telegraph

Hastings to plough another £23m into its revised plans for Northern Ireland's biggest hotel

By John Mulgrew and PA

The Hastings Hotels group is pumping another £23 million into building Northern Ireland's biggest hotel, the Grand Central.

Planning permission for the redevelopment of the former Windsor House office block at Bedford Street was given by Belfast City Council earlier this month.

A total of 304 bedrooms and more than 150 jobs will be involved in the scheme.

It's now expected to cost £53m, up from an initial estimate of £30m.

Sir William Hastings, chairman of Hastings Hotels, said: "We are pleased that the revised planning permission for the Grand Central Hotel has been approved.

"This represents our company's biggest single investment to date of £53m and is the sum required to create a top-quality hotel befitting the name Grand Central and of which Belfast city can be proud."

It will be the group's seventh hotel in Northern Ireland and should open in the middle of next year.

Howard Hastings, managing director of Hastings Hotels, said the company would work with a wide range of local firms on the project.

"Our lead construction partner is Graham Construction and their building expertise and quality of workmanship is second to none," he said.

"The structural steel has been fabricated in Lisburn and the cladding is being designed and procured through a company based in Moira. The mechanical and electrical contractors are also local as are the bricklayers, joiners, plasterers and even the tower crane driver." Planning permission was granted last year for the initial £30m, 200-bedroom scheme.

Earlier this month councillors backed the new, much larger project.

Planners considered a number of issues, including the loss of existing offices, the ground floor retail unit, any impact upon the "character and appearance of Linen Conservation Area and the setting of adjacent listed buildings", as well as the "impact on existing roads infrastructure".

A total of six objections were received.

Planners said that each raised "similar issues in regards to the finishes".

"They consider the finishes to be out of character with the area. The materials are inappropriate, the poor design and lack of windows creates an overbearing structure which will have a detrimental impact on a Conservation Area," it said.

But planners said while "visually different from the previously approved application, it is considered to be a marked improvement on the original building".

New plans say the larger hotel's design is "more restrained" and has a "contemporary facade".

In Belfast, more than two-dozen hotels are at various stages of planning and development.

Among the 3,747 rooms, around 500 are part of the Titanic Quarter master plan.

There are also proposals for five by Liverpool developer Lawrence Kenwright, including a George Best-themed hotel.

Around 1,100 rooms are being added across five schemes currently under-construction.

They are the Marriott AC at City Quays; the Grand Central at Bedford Street; Hampton by Hilton at Hope Street; the Maldron Hotel at Brunswick Street, and the Titanic Hotel. Ten Square is also being extended.

Belfast Telegraph