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Councillors give backing to George Best and Hamilton Dock hotels

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The George Best hotel in Belfast city centre

The George Best hotel in Belfast city centre

Freddie Parkinson

The George Best hotel in Belfast city centre

Belfast councillors have given their backing to the long-awaited George Best Hotel in the city centre.

Councillors also gave approval for a new 276 bed hotel at Hamilton Dock in the Titanic Quarter at a planning committee meeting on Thursday evening.

Planning authorities had recommended approval of the 63-bed George Best Hotel, which has been shrouded in controversy.

The approval is subject to a series of conditions and a referral to the Department for Infrastructure as the proposed conversion of the Scottish Mutual Building has been plagued by objections from neighbouring businesses and planning authorities.

Outstanding issues with the plans include the need for further details about a proposed new fire escape and a requirement for the window frames to be painted a darker colour than the white suggested in the current plans.

The George Best Hotel was first expected to open in December 2018 but has been subject to a series of delays.

Developer Signature Living said a date of June 2020 had been set for completion of work at the hotel.

Chairman Lawrence Kenwright said that funding is in place to complete construction and that it "will continue apace".

“We’re delighted to have achieved planning permission and finally be on the home straight in the construction of this beautiful hotel," he said.

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What the new hotel at Hamilton Dock could look like

What the new hotel at Hamilton Dock could look like

"Restoring listed buildings is not always a smooth ride and it hasn’t been so with this hotel, but I’m excited that we are now close to the George Best joining our stable of successful trading hotels.

"We are grateful to our investors for their patience with this development and we will be in touch with them all over the coming weeks to commence the buy-back process.”

Planners also recommended councillors approve the project at Hamilton Dock, which includes conference facilities, restaurant, cafe and rooftop bar.

The JMK Group, who are behind the development, welcomed the approval of plans for the "family-focused" hotel.

“We are delighted with Belfast City Council’s decision to approve this exciting hotel development and are eager to progress our investment in the area," JMK Group founder and chairman John Kajani said.

"Belfast has become a destination-of-choice, particularly for families and city-break enthusiasts, and we are thrilled with the opportunity to support the thriving economic growth of the City’s tourism industry.”

Construction on the hotel is expected to begin in spring 2020, with an estimated opening date of summer 2021.

The approved Titanic Quarter hotel will be the group's first in Northern Ireland. JMK curently owns the Holiday Inn Express in Dublin City Centre with three more under construction in the area.

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