Heritage body blasts 'miserly' 10-minute slot at council to air objections to Tribeca scheme
An architectural heritage body has hit out at Belfast City Council for only allowing a "miserly" 10 minutes to object to the £500m Tribeca scheme.
Revised plans for the major city centre development on Donegall Street and North Street were put on public display earlier this year.
London-based Castlebrooke Investments downscaled a number of the planned works, but kept the New York-inspired Tribeca name (Triangle beside the Cathedral) which had received a negative public reaction.
Those objecting to the plans were given a short opportunity to speak last night at a pre-determination hearing of Belfast City Council's planning committee.
In a strongly worded statement, Ulster Architectural Heritage (UAH) said: "These hearings grant objectors a miserly shared 10 minutes to (impossibly) fully air their views directly to councillors."
UAH made several other complaints, including concerns the "overloaded" water infrastructure in Belfast City Centre was capable of handling the development.
It was also questioned if planning permission had been a foregone conclusion, as Castlebrooke had been invited by Belfast City Council to a property fair in Cannes this year to present their plans to investors.
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UAH said the revised plans would still diminish the area's historic character, fail to provide green space and would "plant a glass monolith facing and intimidating the cathedral's architecture".
Castlebrooke Investments said there were "factual inaccuracies" in the UAH statement.
It said a voluntary public consultation during the summer went beyond any statutory requirement, with the feedback clearly set out in the planning application. In addition, it said there had been "substantial, direct stakeholder engagement", including with UAH.
"We believe that the plans being discussed this evening address many of the areas of concern which have been raised to date, including the revision of the height of the Grade A office block on the corner of Rosemary Street and North Street and further retention of the historic streetscape of North Street and Donegall Street," it said.
"Most importantly we have committed to returning North Street Arcade to use in a new format which will encourage a vibrant population of independent retailers. We are working alongside some of the best architects in the world to deliver revised plans which will work for Belfast.
"We are, once again, not renaming the Cathedral Quarter, rather Tribeca Belfast is a development name for the area alongside Cathedral Quarter."
Belfast City Council said the time slots for the planning committee hearing were in line with protocol.
"The local planning authority is entirely separate and independent from the council's city centre regeneration team, which seeks to profile investment opportunities in the city," the council said.
It said the applicants had been made aware of the current water infrastructure as part of the consultation responses.
It added: "This evening's predetermination meeting is the first step in the process of planning committee considering the revised application. It is not mandatory and is being held on the recommendation of officers. There will be a planning committee meeting to consider the application in due course."