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Approved Tribeca project must be of highest quality, warns former NI minister

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An artist’s impression of an arcade in the Tribeca development

An artist’s impression of an arcade in the Tribeca development

An artist’s impression of an arcade in the Tribeca development

Former direct rule minister Sir Richard Needham, who helped establish Belfast's Cathedral Quarter, has welcomed the £500m Tribeca development in the area.

Sir Richard was under-secretary of state for Northern Ireland between 1985 and 1992 when he worked on the development of Cathedral Quarter and Laganside in Belfast.

He said that, in principle, the new investment was wonderful and long overdue but that "the devil is in the detail".

Tribeca Belfast covers a 12-acre site located beside St Anne's Cathedral bounded by Royal Avenue, Donegall Street, Lower Garfield Street and Rosemary Street.

Sir Richard, also a former Economy Minister, said: "The key is that it needs to be the best of Belfast. It needs to be of the highest quality, using the highest quality of materials.

"It needs to have a first rate architect and get the balance of development and open space right.

"Who are the anchor tenants going to be? Of prime consideration is the quality of design.

"As minister, my first principle for the Cathedral Quarter was that only the best will do for Belfast, I wanted to be remembered for doing something good.

"That same principle should apply for this development."

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Sir Richard Needhman

Sir Richard Needhman

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

The latest phase of the redevelopment was given the go-ahead at a meeting of Belfast City Council's planning committee on Tuesday night.

Approval was granted to the amendments which Castlebrooke Investments submitted to the outlined planning application for the scheme, which includes large areas of Donegall Street and North Street, in September.

Pub entrepreneur Willie Jack, who is behind the Duke of York, Harp Bar, Dark Horse and the Friend at Hand whiskey shop in the Cathedral Quarter, also welcomed the planning permission - which includes a plan for a new hotel at the derelict Assembly Rooms.

"We need something because at the moment the area behind the Assembly Rooms is not attractive," he said.

"It is not well lit up and it is attracting pigeons, rats and drug use. That is not good for Belfast. We have to accept that. I think this investment is better, at last, for Belfast."

Concerns, however, have been raised about Tribeca by independent businesses and the artistic community who fear the development will price them out of the area.

Laura Graham Brown, who runs family-owned food store Arcadia on the Lisburn Road with her husband Mark, said: "We have no aspirations to move into the city centre, but we do have a sense of civic pride and this does not seem to be a good move for Belfast."

She said she feared the impact on civic space at Writer's Square, which will be reduced in size.

"Small indie business and artists who moved into the area will now likely be priced out of it, undoubtedly," she added.

"A walk through the Cathedral Quarter will be like walking anywhere else in any city."

Jonathan Mitchell, director of Castlebrooke Investments, said: "We are introducing a mix of uses across the site which are designed to attract a variety of retail, restaurant, cultural and workplace tenants.

"A new focus for arts, culture and retail is provided within a colonnade of small units following the historic curve of the former North Street Arcade with larger retail units and restaurants animating Writer's Square and a newly-created Assembly Square, adjacent to the listed Four Corners building."

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