Belfast Telegraph

Planning go-ahead for Carvill scheme

The high-profile redevelopment of one of Belfast's most historic industrial sites has been given the go-ahead while the property firm behind it has been in financial difficulties.

Carvill Group has said it would be entering into a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) after the property downturn created trading difficulties in the family firm.

But now its most expensive development, the overhaul of the 6.5 hectare Sirocco air conditioning works in east Belfast, has been given outline planning permission.

Turley Associates, the planning consultants who have shepherded the application through planning, said the scheme would include over 2,000 homes and affordable housing, as well as offices, a hotel, restaurants, a supermarket, a care home and parks for cultural and community use.

"The scheme is likely to create more than 2,300 direct and indirect jobs, including 400 to 500 in the construction stage." But a spokesman added: "The recent recession means that the four-phased development in unlikely to commence immediately."

The securing of planning permission will improve the value of the site, which will have fallen dramatically in value since it was bought by Carvill Group from Ewart Properties for £40m in 2006 - then a record price for a development site.

A planning application was submitted by Carvill Group one year later.

Diana Fitzsimons, Turley Associates' Belfast office director, said: "This is a significant decision for Carvill Group and Belfast city centre.

"It is an exciting scheme that proposes different architects designing the individual blocks which will all be united by high-quality public spaces.

"This will produce an amazing transformation of this part of the city and will be one of the last pieces in the puzzle which redefines the city around its major river."

Carvill managing director Chris Carvill said: "It is our intention to integrate the derelict Sirocco site into the traditional city centre by providing a high-quality pedestrian/cycle bridge to the Waterfront Hall and lining up the main axis of the proposed development to ensure visual connectivity with the city centre core."

Carvill Group is best known as a residential builder and has built houses at Woodbrook, Lisburn and apartments at Belfast's The Embankment development.

News of Carvill Group's trading difficulties emerged at the end of January, ahead of a series of high-profile property failures in Northern Ireland.

Jermon Limited - the landlord of key retail properties in Belfast city centre - went into administration, while McAlister Holdings' Mervyn McAlister was declared bankrupt.

Three of Mr McAlister's sites, at Great Victoria Street and at housing developments in Coleraine and Dundonald, had gone into receivership. Mr McAlister then withdrew an appeal against a refusal of planning permission to his application to build a 37-storey building, The Aurora, at the Great Victoria Street site.