Belfast Telegraph

Councillors give Primark go-ahead for redevelopment of Bank Buildings

CGI image of the new re-developments on the Primark Building
CGI image of the new re-developments on the Primark Building
CGI of the fire damage

Primark's restoration bid for its historic Bank Buildings site has won approval from Belfast City Council's planning committee.

The multi-million pound scheme had been recommended for approval by the council's own planners.

On Tuesday evening councillors on the planning committee rubber-stamped the planners' recommendation.

The application seeks to restore the grade B1-listed landmark, which was built between 1880 and 1899, in its totality.

It is hoped the proposed works will restore the building and result in a considerably larger store than the one currently open in Castle Street.

The proposal is virtually a like-for-like restoration. Proposed conservation-led works include the reinstatement of the upper floor structures from Bank Street, Royal Avenue and Castle Street facades and the 1970s wall on Bank Street. The discount retailer is also seeking to add a cafe.

SDLP councillor Gary McKeown said work could take two to three years to complete.

“It is fantastic that plans have been approved for the restoration of Bank Buildings, and when complete, the building will once again take its place as a major landmark in our city centre,” he said.

"Now that plans have been approved to restore Bank Buildings to its former glory, this should act as a catalyst to improve the neighbourhood generally, driving forward a vision of what our city centre should be."

A fire engulfed the historic Bank Buildings on Royal Avenue, which housed Primark's flagship Belfast store, in August last year and burned for three days.

The fire caused severe damage and a significant proportion of the internal structure was destroyed. The external facades were also damaged.

The building has been subject to an ongoing stabilisation strategy since the fire.

It was estimated that £20m was lost to the city centre economy as the fire's ripple effect had a devastating impact on Belfast's main shopping street, and Primark themselves were estimated to have lost £75m.

Bank Buildings is a multi-bay classically styled five storey building finished in red sandstone and polished granite. It was designed by William Henry Lynn and was constructed between 1880 and 1899. It became a listed building in 1980 and is located within the Belfast City Centre Conservation Area.

In the aftermath of the inferno, Primark opened a store on Castle Street, which started trading in December 2018, just in time for the bumper Christmas shopping trading period.

The popular retailer then opened a second city centre store in Fountain House, Donegall Place earlier this year.

The fire at Bank Buildings
The fire at Bank Buildings

When the restoration works are completed the existing cordon will be removed and full pedestrian and cycle access will be restored for that area.

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