A major initial planning application for a vacant Belfast Gasworks site has been approved, involving new social housing, office and community space and a hotel extension.
he residential and community aspects of the plan have been welcomed by a group campaigning for the adjacent Markets community, who say it marks a victory for their Homes Now! country.
Belfast City Council’s Planning Committee this week gave planning permission for the construction of 94 social housing units on two sites with access from Raphael Street and Stewart Street, as well as the provision of landscaping, a parking lot, an open public space and a pumping station. and associated works.
Candidates for the residential part of the plan are Belfast City Council and Radius Housing. Approval is given by the elected officials under conditions, after consulting the municipal agents.
The residential element is part of a plan for the currently unused brownfield site known to planners as the Gasworks Northern Fringe.
The larger plan includes new office, retail and commercial space, an extension to the Radisson Hotel, a multi-storey car park, a new public plaza, as well as community infrastructure and community business spaces.
The council’s report states: ‘The residential element is in fact a full planning permission application, but from a procedural point of view it is a preliminary application.’
A mixture of two-storey residential houses and five-storey residential apartment buildings, as well as three-, five-, and eight-storey mixed-use buildings are proposed in the masterplan area.
An extension to the existing Radisson Blu hotel will include a five-storey bedroom block, with provisions for approximately 101 rooms. It will also include a gym and a three-storey hotel amenities block.
The council received 268 “representations” regarding the plan.
A council official said all those representations were supportive of the social and community housing elements of the plan, but raised concerns about the delivery of the hotel and car park parts of the site.
A representative from the Markets Development Association told the planning committee this week: ‘The sites under consideration were among the first developed in the South Town Centre, and we are delighted to see its historic use of housing restored.
“It is the culmination of two decades of campaigning by the people of Markets, the last five of which have been particularly intense, under the banner Homes Now! country.
“Residents collected petitions, lobbied political representatives, participated in the consultation process and, if necessary, protested to secure these houses.
“In a community that year after year has more than 110 homeless families on the waiting list, the 94 new units will have a huge impact. The causal links between homelessness and poor mental health and low educational attainment are well documented.
“These houses will go some way to reducing these wider social deprivations within the community. Generations of families will reap the benefits of voting for homes tonight.
“We also welcome the elements of the master plan that designate adjacent lands for community infrastructure, social economy and cooperative development.
“Thriving communities are built on more than homes, and these spaces will help overcome the structural shortcomings of market community redevelopment in the 1970s, when its mixed economic base was ceded.
“Residents remain concerned about the proposed uses for Sites B and C in the Master Plan, and in particular the potential developer’s extremely negative attitude towards the market community.”
Stormont’s Historic Environment Division opposed the application, expressing concerns about the potential impact of the tallest elements of the proposal on nearby listed buildings in the area.
NI Water also objected, citing concerns about the capacity of wastewater treatment infrastructure.
Stormont’s Roads Division is seeking further information on the travel plan submitted for the residential portion of the application and green travel measures, including a commitment to travel cards, automobile club membership and membership in Belfast Bikes.
The council’s report adds: “In view of HED’s objection and the current position of DFI Roads, the application will need to be notified to the Department of Infrastructure in accordance with the Planning (Notification of Applications) Directive 2017.
“Assuming the Department does not appeal the application, then it will have to go through a predetermination hearing before further consideration by the planning committee.”
The proposed parking development will be five storeys with an additional half-storey setback, incorporating up to approximately 231 parking spaces.
There will be an overall loss of 160 parking spaces at the demand site due to the proposed redevelopment.
The report states: “The application site is located in the central parking area of Belfast City.
“The policy establishes the need for proposed car parks in parking restriction zones to be limited to short-term parking and to be managed appropriately to deter long-term parking by commuters.
“While some of the parking in the multi-storey car park provides for the new development, the majority is replacement parking for vehicles already traveling to the site.
“Parking on parts of the Gasworks site is already managed to deter long stays, as evidenced by barriers and ticket machines. It is expected that the proposed multi-storey car park will be managed in the same way. It is considered that the multi-storey car park would help remedy some of the loss of parking at the site. »