Belfast Telegraph

IT giants in clash over Maysfield planning row: Concentrix raises objections to Allstate's plans for new base

By John Mulgrew

A planning row has broken out between two of Northern Ireland's biggest IT employers over the construction of their major new office developments in east Belfast, it can be revealed.

Call centre giant Concentrix has raised a series of objections to insurance giant Allstate's plans for a new six-storey headquarters close to the former Maysfield Leisure Centre site.

Allstate submitted planning permission for a new building beside the former centre earlier this year, after agreeing to buy the area from Belfast City Council. But now Concentrix, which could soon be neighbours of Allstate with their own plans to convert Maysfield into a new contact centre, has objected to Allstate's plans across a range of areas. "Concentrix considers this application unacceptable and object to granting planning permission to Allstate Insurance Company for their plans for Mays Meadows," it said.

US-owned Concentrix is has said Allstate's application's is "unacceptable", with its development plans over-lapping into land "Concentrix has agreed to purchase in our lease agreement".

It also says plans do not fit in with the council's proposals to enhance and redevelop the area.

"We object to Allstate's application on the grounds that it is not in line with the enhancement goals of the area," it said.

And the Department for Social Development (DSD) has also raised concerns over Allstate's application.

It said that aside from "substantive issues" in the planning application, it expressed its "disappointment at not being consulted on this application despite owning land directly adjacent to the development site".

It says there is "very little consideration given to the pedestrian and cycle routes through the development site".

A letter which was sent to Belfast City Council adds that the planned building would also prevent DSD's River Management Team from accessing the Lagan Walkway area for "maintenance and health and safety operations".

And it said the "current development plan" will also preclude emergency service access to the front of the building.

Concentrix has said it opposes the Allstate development as it fails to "meet area enhancement goals", "overuse and over-development" of the area and "overshadowing" of the proposed Concentrix office at the former Maysfield Leisure Centre.

Concentrix has said its site could play host to 1,200 workers.

Allstate - which employs more than 2,000 people across its three Northern Ireland sites - is still adding to its workforce after unveiling 650 new jobs would be in place by 2016.

Last night Allstate did not wish to comment on the planning row, which could put back both companies' plans for expansion in Northern Ireland.

Allstate's application is currently "under consideration" by Belfast City Council, and is expected to be raised at a meeting of the planning committee later this month.

Allstate NI is the largest IT employer in Northern Ireland with offices in Belfast, Londonderry and Strabane. It was set up in 1998 as Northbrook Technology, before being rebranded 10 years later under the Allstate banner.

It's a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Allstate Corporation, which is the largest publicly owned property and casualty insurer in the US.

Its initial planning proposals for the site came just a month after it was revealed Concentrix was set to take over the former Maysfield Leisure Centre building, next door.

Belfast Telegraph