Belfast Telegraph

Campbell College wants to turn historic Belfast building into apartments

By John Mulgrew

A top Belfast school is hoping to turn one of its listed buildings into a dozen new luxury apartments.

Campbell College in east Belfast, wants permission to turn its Cabin Hill building, which dates back to 1860, into 12 private apartments.

The building was bought by Campbell, and became the College's Prep School in 1929.

It previously was granted planning permission to turn the building into apartments, but that has since lapsed.

The building, which played host to the first Cabinet meetings of the fledgling Northern Ireland Government in the early 1920s, was placed on sale at the end of 2015, with an asking price of £675,000.

A spokeswoman for Campbell College confirmed the school is working to secure the future of the historic building.

"Campbell College was previously granted planning permission for the Cabin Hill site, part of which has now lapsed," she told the Belfast Telegraph.

"This is a re-application to renew the original planning permission in preparation for sale.

"The Cabin Hill building has suffered damage due to its vacancy and through vandalism, and the college is working towards securing the future of the building as soon as possible to prevent any further deterioration."

In a planning statement on behalf of the application to turn the building into apartments, it says despite its "best efforts", Cabin Hill "became subject to repeated thefts (of lead etc) and vandalism, leading to water ingress, some of which was undetected for periods of time".

"As a result of this water ingress there were a series of outbreaks of dry rot in numerous positions in the building.

"The governors appointed Johnston Houston Association to carry out a series of necessary emergency holding repairs to protect the fabric of the building and to prevent further water ingress.

"This has been an ongoing process responding to repeated attacks."

Those behind the plans, Consarc Conservation, say the "conversion scheme has been designed to retain as much as possible the original spaces of the principal rooms in the 1860 building and to retain or reinstate the original detailing and character".

The school was placed on the market in 2015, with a view to transform it into apartments, a nursing home or even a hotel.

The original Cabin Hill was a small dwelling built on the site in 1786, but was replaced with a larger building in 1861.

It was purchased by Robert James McMordie QC, Lord Mayor of Belfast, in 1903. He added a number of extensions.

Mr McMordie died at Cabin Hill in 1914 and the property was leased to the Rt Hon Sir James Craig, the first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, between 1920 and 1922.

Several Cabinet meetings were accommodated there before it was sold to Campbell College in 1924, and housed its prep school from 1929.

The fresh plan for the restoration of the building says the concept will aim to "conserve and retain as much of the fabric of the listed building as possible, ensuring the continued life of this important house".

"... to design a new housing scheme that complements the historic character of the existing buildings, and is of an appropriate scale and relationship. .. and to ensure the existing buildings retain their sense of place by appraising the building settings in the landscape and retaining and enhancing existing boundaries, trees and spaces."

Speaking in 2015, former pupil and teacher at Cabin Hill, composer, Philip Hammond, said he was delighted that it was being put up for sale.

"I was worried when it was closed that we could lose a building with such historical significance," he said.

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