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Doubts over George Best hotel as owner puts sites on sale

Lawrence Kenwright

The future of a planned George Best-themed hotel in Belfast was unclear last night after its Liverpool owner said all its Belfast sites were "under review" - with two already on the market.

Crumlin Road Courthouse and the War Memorial Building in the Cathedral Quarter were to have been turned into hotels by Lawrence Kenwright and his company Signature Living.

The War Memorial site was to become a venue catering for large groups, while the 19th century listed courthouse is in a serious state of disrepair after years of neglect and arson attacks.

Now the Crumlin Road Courthouse and War Memorial Building in Waring Street have been put on sale through commercial property agency Colliers, although no asking price has been disclosed.

A spokesman for Signature Living last night confirmed the two sites are on the market. He added: "Our sites in Belfast are constantly under review, as part of our continued growth strategy throughout the UK."

Work on the Scottish Mutual Building had started in a plan to turn it into the George Best Hotel. However, there was no further detail on its future last night.

Signature Living had won planning permission to turn the courthouse into a hotel with a rooftop bar, swimming pool and en suite guest rooms. It's opposite Crumlin Road Gaol, which has already been developed into a tourist attraction.

The War Memorial Building also has planning permission for a hotel.

The George Best Hotel at Donegall Square has seen significant work done on the property, although it has faced delays and an opening date has long been uncertain. In June employees at the delayed hotel in Belfast were offered relocation to England or Wales, or redundancy.

This week Signature Living also put two of its most prominent Liverpool hotels on the market. The 59-bedroom Shankly Hotel - inspired by Liverpool boss Bill Shankly - is on the market for bids of over £35m, while the 30 James Street hotel is looking for offers over £16m.

Mr Kenwright has hit out at Belfast City Council over its planning policy, accusing it of putting obstacles in the way of his transformation of the Scottish Mutual Building. Last year he said he would cut his planned investment in the city from £80m to £40m.

Belfast Telegraph