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Residents ‘frustrated’ at plans for new Ormeau Road hotel to extend licensing hours to 1am

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Artist's impression of the new Ormeau Road hotel

Artist's impression of the new Ormeau Road hotel

Artist's impression of the new Ormeau Road hotel

A plan to transform a Catholic Church into a boutique hotel on Belfast’s Ormeau Road is facing new objections from locals after the developer made an application to extend licensing hours from 11pm to 1am.

Hospitality group the Galgorm Collection received permission from Belfast City Council in April 2019 to transform the former Holy Rosary Church and an adjacent Parochial House building. The 19th century listed building has been derelict for over 40 years.

The £8m plan by ‘Fratelli Ormeau Road Ltd’ involves the demolition of parts of the Parochial house and change of use of the whole building to an 18-bed hotel and licensed restaurant.

But the new proposal by the applicant to vary planning conditions set by the council, namely to extend the opening hours of the proposed licensed restaurant from 11pm to 1am, Friday to Sunday, is causing residents in nearby Bell Towers and Fitzwilliam Avenue deep concern.

The latest Planning Portal entry on the application shows 23 letters of objection from residents, and two letters of support, from Bredagh GAC and Ormeau Business Association.

Council planning officers are recommending approval of the extension of licensing to 1am, but the matter has been deferred for elected representatives to attend a site visit.

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In the planning report for the licence extension, officers note that the planning approval for the new hotel in 2019 was dependent upon the 11pm closing time condition.

It states: “This was based on the tight residential context and that the primary use was a hotel and restaurant and therefore, a restaurant closing at 11pm is typical.

“The 11pm closing time was considered to allow the restaurant to operate on the same footing as other licensed restaurants and to offer a level of protection to the neighbouring residential properties from increased noise at unsociable hours and to residents of the hotel.”

SDLP councillor Gary McKeown said: “I don’t think there is anyone who doesn’t want to see the site brought back into use. It is a beautiful building and needs to be used, but I think it is essential that whatever the final outcome is, that it is used in a way which is complementary to the surrounding area rather than jarring with it.

“As far as residents were concerned this was a settled issue, and all of a sudden the lid has come off again, and they are faced with the prospect of licensed premises being open to very late at night. In an area that has a lot of old people and young families, with it literally in their backyard.

“Quite a lot of people have been in contact with me concerned about it. It is quite a small community — people primarily in the immediate area are very worried about it. It is very frustrating for them, having gone through this whole process previously, and after the committee reached a decision. Now they feel they are back to square one.”

He said: “There was a reason why the committee agreed to 11pm. Different people had different concerns, some people wanted to see it return to community use, some people were fairly relaxed about it, there was a range of different views around the purpose of the building.

“But there was consistent concern around the fact that operation late at night in such close proximity to residential homes would have an impact on wellbeing. The council Planning Committee reached a decision in 2019, and as far as everybody was concerned, that was that.

“Council’s Environmental Health have looked at it, and are saying because the applicant has put in some information about sound mitigation, that has satisfied their concerns. But as far as the people are concerned, the decision was made in 2019 — why is it now being reopened for discussion?”

He added: “This is not a case of Nimbyism, this is more about ensuring that the long term viability of this property is consistent with the community in which it sits. It is more important that what goes in there ultimately is appropriate for the location.”

The matter is to return before the Belfast City Council Planning Committee on August 16.


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