Concerns have been raised that a huge proposed apartment complex in Belfast could obscure one of the city’s best-known buildings.
Planning permission was recently granted for the Loft Lines development in the dockside area of Belfast known as the Titanic Quarter.
The development would incorporate 778 apartments in three buildings along with retail units and public realm space on a 3.8-acre site.
The company behind the project is called Pirrie Belfast Limited, whose base is in Bangor, Wales.
They describe the Loft Lines development as a “first for Belfast” which will create a “new way of living for people of all ages, incomes and occupations”.
The application for planning permission for the new complex were granted last month by Belfast City Council’s planning committee.
As part of the planning process, letters were sent to residents and businesses in the surrounding area to see if they wished to comment on the proposals.
Some of them have responded with their concerns, including the impact on the Titanic Belfast centre which is located beside the planned site of the Loft Lines development.
The Titanic Belfast attraction, which opened in 2012, tells the story of Belfast’s shipbuilding history and its involvement in the construction of the famous liner which sank in 1912 on its maiden voyage to the US.
Eight residents of the Arc apartment complex, which is located near the proposed site of the Loft Lines development, have written to the council’s planning department to register their opposition to the plans.
One objector describes the possibility of blocking the “iconic views” of Titanic Belfast as “just tragic and stupid”. Another says the Titanic centre, which is one of Belfast’s biggest tourist attractions, “merits free space on all sides”.
The local residents also claim there are already too many apartments in the Titanic Quarter and suggest there are not enough car parking facilities in the area.
However, letters of support for the Loft Lines development have also been sent to the council by a number of prominent organisations and businesses in Belfast.
Among those who are backing the proposed apartment complex is Retail NI, a representative body for the independent retail and wholesale sector in Northern Ireland.
In a letter to Belfast City Council last month, Retail NI’s chief executive, Glyn Roberts, said it was expected the Loft Lines development would “significantly enhance” the Titanic Quarter.
“I believe this contemporary residential culture should be welcomed and will further help position Belfast as an attractive foreign direct investment location,” wrote Mr Roberts.
“The prioritisation of sustainability of the Loft Lines and championing of active travel for its residents is also hugely welcomed as setting a commendable example for readying our neighbourhoods to achieve #COP26 objectives at the earliest stages of development.
“The Loft Lines represent a welcome investment in the long-term vision for Belfast and will generate a high proportion of construction jobs whilst also providing longstanding employment through the inclusion of new commercial and retail spaces integrated into the Loft Lines community.
“As a city stakeholder, I fully understand the need to deliver new urban homes in order to support the transformation of this part of the city into a prime destination that will act as a catalyst for wider city centre growth and resilience.
“Furthermore, the public realm included in the proposals only seek to bolster dwell time in Titanic Quarter and enhance the area’s attractiveness as a great place to live, work and visit.”
Belfast Chamber, which represents businesses throughout the city, has also backed the proposed Loft Lines development. In a support letter to the council, the chamber’s chief executive, former economy minister Simon Hamilton, said the development would help increase the city’s population.
“Belfast Chamber has been a longstanding supporter of the achievement of the Belfast Agenda target of growing the city’s population by 66,000 by 2035 and, especially, the desire to see 11,500 residential units within central Belfast,” Mr Hamilton stated.
“Belfast Chamber believes that increasing the city centre’s population is crucial to Belfast’s regeneration and will reap huge social, economic and environmental benefits for Belfast.
“As the voice of business in the city, we are also very aware of the need to provide residential living in the heart of Belfast as a way of attracting and retaining talent.
“Our recent Next Gen Belfast survey found that affordable, city centre living was the number one specific improvement that just under 1,000 students and young professionals would like to see in Belfast.
"Schemes like Loft Lines will be vital to achieving our overall target and the associated advantages.
“We are also supportive of how the proposed Loft Lines development has focused heavily on being an exceptionally sustainable scheme with the inclusion of active travel elements.
“Furthermore, Belfast Chamber supports how Loft Lines will help regenerate and revitalise this part of Belfast’s waterfront and in particular, how it will assist in developing more public realm along the Lagan. Belfast Chamber supports this application and we hope that Belfast City Council is able to approve what we believe will be a great addition to the city.”
Letters of support for the apartment complex have also been sent to the council by representatives of the Titanic Hotel in Belfast and the Odyssey Trust, which manages the SSE Arena and W5 science centre in the Titanic Quarter.