Belfast Telegraph

Planners green light Primark Bank Buildings work- safety cordon to be reduced

By Mark Edwards

Planning officers at Belfast City Council have recommended an application from Primark to begin work to conserve the Bank Building be approved.

However, the decision has to be ratified by the council's planning committee which meets on Friday.

The application involves taking down, recording and assessment of Bank Buildings above the fourth floor cornice line to Bank Street, Castle Street and Royal Avenue, including six chimneys- the most unstable parts of the buildings.

Planning officers have recommended consent be given to the application, subject to conditions.

It is understood this work would allow work to start on the remainder of the building, to make it safe through a façade retention scheme.

The work will also make it possible to shrink part of the cordon and restore pedestrian access between Royal Avenue and Donegall Place, subject to health and safety considerations as the work takes place.

A total of 14 shops have been shut since the fire as they remain within a safety cordon around the store. A number of other stores in the area have complained about lost trade due to the lack of footfall in the area.

On October 2 Primark submitted a proposal that could have reduced the cordon within weeks but it was rejected by the council.

A Primark spokesperson said: “Primark is aware that Belfast City Council has published the first phase of our Bank Buildings’ Listed Building Consent Application.

“We welcome the council’s support for our proposal and await full authorisation from the Planning Committee, which is due on 26 October. Once we have received legal consent, we will start work as soon as we can.”

Councillor Matt Garrett, chairman of the Council’s Planning Committee, said: “Since the devastating fire at Bank Buildings, we have been working tirelessly with Primark to find a way forward.

"Council has given a commitment to do all within its power to restore the city centre to the very vibrant place we know it to be, and thanks to our officers we have been able to turn round this application without delay, in just three weeks, and have called a special meeting of the Council’s Planning Committee in order to expedite this process.”

He added: “We recognise the urgency for businesses, both inside and outside the cordon, to ensure their economic resilience in the run-up to Christmas and beyond.

"As such, Council has stated in its conditions of consent that it expects Primark to begin works as soon as practically possible, following the issue of this consent.

“While the cordon is absolutely necessary to ensure the health and safety of the public, we are conscious of the significant impact it is having on trade, and so we will continue to work with Primark to move forward and ensure the required works are completed as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile, the investigation into the cause of the fire has not yet been completed.

A Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) spokeswoman said: “We are conducting a joint investigation with HSENI [Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland] to determine the cause and circumstances which led to the fire at Bank Buildings on 28 August 2018.

"This investigation is ongoing.”

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