Developers 'turning Belfast Waterworks area into new Holyland'
Members of a north Belfast residents' group have warned the area could become the "next Holyland" blighted by anti-social behaviour after planners recommended approval for a new apartment complex.
The South Ulster Housing Association is building the four-storey, 15-apartment block on Eia Street in the Waterworks neighbourhood.
But following complaints from residents, Belfast City Council has deferred a final decision pending a site visit.
The Waterworks Residents group claimed the new flats would be "bedsits" in an area "crying out for family homes".
Fears of overcrowding and anti-social behaviour, as has been witnessed in the Holyland student area of south Belfast, also concern the group.
And it complained that the developers had failed to meet with residents.
The South Ulster Housing Association said it had carried out a public consultation and that the plans were positively received during an evening presentation in March 2017.
A spokesman added: "It's providing social housing in an area of high need."
On the Holyland comparison, he said: "I think that's a very broad statement - that's what the planning authority is there for.
"Every stage has been scrutinised and approved by the planning authorities so far."
He said it was unfair to suggest it was unwilling to meet the residents' group.
He added: "It's always been part of our process to talk to local residents."
A spokeswoman from the residents' group said she was not reassured.
She said: "For years people are saying they're worried it will become a new Holyland, particularly with the new Ulster University campus coming to Belfast city centre. There's been a lot of concern for years about the Waterworks area becoming run down.
"It's 15 apartments - 11 two-bedroom and four one-bedroom.
"We feel the need in the area is really for high-quality family homes."
She said an exodus from the area during the Troubles had led to neglect and an increasing rate of dereliction.
"This is really the culmination of a lot of issues," she added.
"There's been so many hostels and flats put in the area, slum landlords coming in, and now there's more and more developers coming in as they see an opportunity to take these big houses and turn them into bedsits.
"We're not opposed to development in any way - we need it.
"But we want sympathetic development in keeping with the character of the area.
North Belfast Green Party representative Malachai O'Hara said locals were "rightly concerned that it will become another Holyland" due to the growing development of houses of multiple occupancy (HMOs).
"The last thing this area needs is for more overcrowded accommodation to be crammed in," he added.