Belfast Telegraph

Proposal to turn Belfast's Clarence Chambers into new office block given the green light

An artist’s impression of the proposed glass tower extension to Clarence Chambers in Belfast
An artist’s impression of the proposed glass tower extension to Clarence Chambers in Belfast
Ryan McAleer

By Ryan McAleer

Newry businessman Brian McConville's bid to redevelop the listed Clarence Chambers building in the centre of Belfast into a modern office development has won the approval of planning officials.

The plan involves the partial demolition of the rear of the early 19th century building next to City Hall, and construction of a seven-storey glass extension, as well as the addition of a new bar and restaurant.

The development also includes an extensive refurbishment programme within the listed building and a new roof terrace. A report recommending that the project go ahead will go before Belfast City Council's planning committee on Tuesday.

Mr McConville, who heads the Newry based MJM Group, bought the building in recent years under the guise of MJM Pearl Ltd. The same company acquired the nearby Pearl Assurance House at 1-3 Donegall Square East in late 2015.

Last month, MJM submitted a planning application to refurbish and extend the building to create a restaurant and cafe space across basement. The plans include four floors of offices, topped by an apartment.

Two weeks ago a new Belfast hospitality group, Clover, announced it would open a new bar and restaurant in the underground level of 18 Donegall Square East, a space previously occupied by the Basement Bar.

Margot, which is due to open in mid-April, involves local hospitality figures Mark Beirne, Paul Langsford, Jim Conlon and Andrew Maxwell.

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It is unclear how the new venture will be impacted by MJM Pearl's planned major redevelopment of 18-19 Donegall Square East.

MJM's plans prompted representations from Belfast Civic Trust and Ulster Bank, with both citing concerns. Belfast Civic Trust claimed the design was "inappropriate to the locale", calling for a more traditional building material to be utilised rather than the glass proposed.

Ulster Bank, which has its Northern Ireland headquarters next door, cited concern over the potential loss of light.

However, the council's conservation officer's analysis concluded: "The extension would be sympathetic to the scale, style and proportions of modern extensions within the area.

"The visual prominence and historic fabric of the existing listed buildings would be fully retained and preserved."

Belfast Telegraph