One of the largest ever residential planning applications in Belfast has been submitted for approval.
The £95m proposal to build 656 homes on the 75-acre Glenmona site beside the Glen Road in the west of the city was submitted yesterday by the Braidwater Group.
The application promises a mixed urban village offering panoramic views over the city, with 550 of the propeties to be social housing and 106 to be affordable housing.
There is also provision for two care homes, a hotel, office and business space, as well as children's play areas.
The application is supported by public transport links and a pledge to plant 10,000 native trees to create a scenic corridor leading to an amenity and retail hub.
Sinn Fein councillor Arder Carson, chair of Belfast City Council's planning committee, said: "We're delighted to see an application of this scale coming forward, and especially one which sets out a significant social and affordable housing offer, which is so needed in the city.
"Our Belfast Agenda sets out to improve quality of life for our residents, so this type of application is very welcome indeed.
"We've made changes to our processes - for example, changing from paper-based applications to applications by email in response to the Covid-19 lockdown - and I'm delighted to say that our planning team is continuing to provide an excellent, professional and rigorous service, helping to keep the economy moving forward."
It's reported that Apex Housing Association is to manage the completed social rented homes, with the affordable homes to be offered to first-time buyers or those who do not currently own a home.
The Braidwater Group has been operating for more than 40 years, and currently has eight developments with nearly 1,000 homes in construction across Northern Ireland.
Finbarr Grogan, planning and technical director, told Business Eye it was "an exciting step forward" after a year of planning.
"There is high demand for social and affordable housing in this area and we have had a positive engagement process with all key stakeholders, which we believe will result in a scheme that will work for the whole community in west Belfast," he said.
"At this time it is crucial to try and keep the economy moving forward and we recognise the vast effort of our professional team in finalising a complex planning application remotely during the coronavirus lockdown.
"We are also very pleased and grateful that Belfast City Council and its planning team is able to begin to process this application, among the many other priorities and challenges it is facing at the moment. We are delighted the council was able to adapt normal working procedures and practices to remotely accept and validate such a major application so quickly in the current environment. Our plan is to go straight to build if approval is granted and this quick turnaround will be of particular importance for our local construction sector, which has faced a very difficult few months.
"We have listened to what the community wants from this scheme.
"There will be a healthy variety of dwelling types and character areas.
"A new bus service to the site will enhance local linkages along with cycle lanes and trails.
"The 'Buy Social' programme at Glenmona will ensure that job opportunities will be offered to apprentices, long-term unemployed, education leavers and professional trainees.
"We have also focused on sustainability, biodiversity and environmental factors, with plans to retain existing and plant over 10,000 new native species trees, adding to the wooded character that will last into the future."
A decision on the application is likely to be taken by the planning committee at Belfast City Council later this year.
For further information about the Glenmona planning application, go to belfastcity.gov.uk/council and belfastcity.gov.uk/planning.