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Former Holy Rosary Church set to become 22 bedroom hotel

The former Holy Rosary church on Ormeau Road is set to be developed into a 22 bedroom hotel if development plans are approved

THE owner of the award-winning Galgorm Resort & Spa has said it hopes to have development proposals for a new £4 million hotel, bar and restaurant complex at the site of the old Holy Rosary Church on Ormeau Road approved before the end of the year.

Plans were submitted to Belfast City Council by Fratelli, a sister firm of Galgorm owners Tullymore House Group, for the 22 bedroom development before Christmas and Galgorm general manager Colin Johnston said he is "extremely positive" they will get the green light in the next nine months. He hopes the new business will be up and running within three years and will create 75 to 100 jobs.

"We are still in process of planning, consultations have gone out and planning has been submitted, we are extremely positive that we will get this across the line before the end of the year so we can get stuck into the development," he told The Irish News.

"Once planning is granted we estimate a two year turnaround on the project, developing 22 bedrooms with bar and restaurant with an investment in the region of £4 million. Due to the nature of the building we knew that this was going to be a long-term project and look forward to getting the opportunity to start the work."

The proposed works includes the demolition of side and rear extensions at the site, including those at the former parochial house, but do not alter the facade of the listed church building. The redevelopment would add 484 sq m of floor space.

Initially the plans for the landmark church building were solely for a Fratelli's restaurant as part of a £1.5m redevelopment programme.

Holy Rosary Church, which dates back to the late 19th century, has lay derelict for 38 years. The landmark Ormeau Road building was opened in 1898 to cater for the increasing number of Catholic parishioners moving into the area, but since its closure in 1980 has been empty, deteriorating dramatically over the years. The site was finally sold in February last year.

There had been some question marks over the development after branding at the site was removed recently, but Mr Johnston explained this action was taken at the request of the local council following a complaint.

In more good news for the company planning permission has been granted by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council for a £14 million extension at the Galgorm Resort & Spa outside Ballymena.

The plans, which were approved in recent weeks, include an additional 64 bedrooms, an exclusive roof top spa, additional external spa garden and executive lounge

It will add almost 5,000 sq m in size to the hotel resort and work on the expansion is set to begin later this year.

The expansion will increase the number of rooms at the hotel from 122 to 186, making it one of the largest in the north.

Mr Johnston said they are "delighted" to receive planning permission and added there are "plenty of exciting projects in the pipeline", which they will share in due course.

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