Belfast City Council is calling for Writer’s Square to be “respected” as a public space as developers prepare to commence the controversial Cathedral Quarter Tribeca plan.
At this week’s full council meeting the majority of elected representatives backed a motion by Green Councillor Aine Groogan that the council “recognises the significance of Writer’s Square to the city of Belfast as a public and civic space, and its historical significance.”
The motion also “calls upon the Department for Communities to ensure that any development brief relating to Writers’ Square respects the civic use of the square as a place facilitating lawful protest and celebration.”
The council is further calling upon the Department to ensure that the setting of St Anne’s Cathedral is “protected.”
Tribeca Belfast is a £500m urban regeneration scheme by Castlebrooke Investments on a 12-acre site located beside St Anne’s Cathedral bounded by Royal Avenue, Donegall Street, Lower Garfield Street and Rosemary Street. It was approved by the Belfast Planning Council in early 2020
The plans involve the pedestrianisation of North Street, a new North Street Arcade, a ten storey office block, the reduction of Writer’s Square by over 50%, and the introduction of new streets and green spaces. It will involve residential, business and commercial space.
Belfast council received more than 450 letters of objection to the plans and five in support. Criticisms have come from a number of organisations, including the St Anne’s Trust, who argue that a reduction in the size of Writer’s Square will create overflow on the cathedral side. Issues regarding overshadowing have also been raised about the new apartment and office blocks.
Last summer permission to start work on the scheme was deferred after councillors agreed that more details had to be given on social housing, prospective figures regarding economic benefits, new public spaces created by the scheme, and car-pooling initiatives.
Councillor Groogan said: “Writer’s Square holds a very special place in the heart and soul of the city of Belfast. It is a place of celebration, it has been a place of protest, of congregation and it is an important open space.
“Open public space within the city is limited – it is ever-shrinking at a time when we need it the most. I’ve called on the Department for Communities to ensure that any development in the area ensures that Writer’s Square is respected as a space for civic celebration and lawful protest and, importantly, that public space stays as public space.”