Havelock House, the former “fun factory” home of UTV, will have another series after Belfast City Council unanimously rejected a plan to build 270 apartments on the site.
Olympian Homes bought the Ormeau Road building in 2018, the same year the broadcaster moved to new offices at City Quays.
After lengthy debate on Tuesday evening, the planning committee of the council rejected the London company’s proposal to demolish Havelock House and build an eight-storey block - despite a recommendation from planning officials to let it go ahead.
Their reasons including concern about the potential dominance of the building in the area, and the effect on nearby residents in Donegall Pass.
Philip Stinson from planning consultants Turley, representing Olympian Homes, had told councillors it would make a “significant contribution” to the council’s ambition to boost the numbers of people living in the city centre. Olympian Homes has already built a block of student flats in Belfast’s Great Patrick Street, and has plans for another at Nelson Street.
UTV started broadcasting from former linen warehouse Havelock House in 1959, when Sir Laurence Olivier was the first voice heard on air. The building is still by some arts and community organisations.
Artist’s impression of how apartments proposed for the site at Havelock House will look
Campaign group Save Havelock House, led by Ken Griffin, opposed the proposal and wanted the building retained because of its significance to the history of broadcasting.
Residents represented by Donegall Pass Community Forum opposed it on grounds including the height of the building and the disruption to residents from building work.
Mr Griffin told the meeting last night that the building was the last example of an “early regional television station on this island”.
The residents’ forum had argued that consultation by the developers had been inadequate. DUP councillor Tracy Kelly, who represents the nearby Botanic area, said residents felt that “chunks of communities are being lost to apartments, private homes or hotels”. “They’ve suffered enough, and many feel their views don’t matter any more.”
Brian McKervey of the Historical Environment Divsion said it had objected because it would have harmful impact on nearby listed buildings.
Programmes produced there included The Kelly Show, School Around the Corner, Lesser Spotted Ulster, Counterpoint and Farming Ulster.
UTV staff have said that it was known was the “fun factory” because it has been such an enjoyable place to work.Broadcaster Gerry Kelly, who presented chat show The Kelly Show from 1989 to 2005, recalled hordes of young fans queuing up outside the buiding on nights when Westlife, Take That or Boyzone were due to appear.
His show hosted other showbiz luminaries like Celine Dion, Sean Connery and George Best.