Housing plans for waterfront scheme start with 750 apartments

Visuals from © Element via Danish architects Henning Larsen showing how the creative spaces at Belfast Waterside will look

DETAILED proposals for the residential element of the £400 million regeneration of the former Sirocco Works site in east Belfast have been revealed by the developers.

And despite their commitment to a mix of housing units, including social and affordable accommodation, the initial proposals focus only on 450 high-specification one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments.

They will make up more than half of the proposed 750 new homes planned for Belfast Waterside, one of the biggest flagship inner-city schemes to be undertaken in the UK this year.

But Vanguard Real Estate, the well-funded joint venture of established partners behind the ambitious scheme, insists the riverside development will ultimately deliver that mix of private for sale, build to rent, social, and affordable housing it originally pledged to provide.

“The residential proposals will help deliver much-needed city centre homes with an important mix of tenures, delivered as part of a wider mixed-use masterplan containing a vibrant combination of office, hotel, retail and cultural uses," Vanguard chairman Chris Kane said.

A Proposal of Application Notice (PAN) for the residential and creative cluster scheme within Belfast Waterside has been submitted to Belfast City Council, marking the beginning of a 12-week pre-application community consultation led by planning consultants Turley.

With the PAN are proposals for a 7,000 square metre ‘plug and play’ space – a building that adapts to the characteristics and needs of the users inside.

The space will be designed to support a vibrant digital and creative community, and this business quarter within the site will support for content creation, local skills, employment and social purpose ventures.

The details were announced as Vanguard Real Estate submitted its wider master-plan application to the council outlining its overall vision for the site, which could create as many as 5,500 jobs and add almost 80,000 square metres of contemporary office space over the next 15 years.

Other plans for the derelict east bank site include a pedestrian footbridge, new leisure and public spaces as well as a hotel, restaurants, cafés and retail space.

Speaking about progress on Belfast Waterside so far, Mr Kane added: "Following more than a year of consultation with the community, local elected representatives and Belfast City Council we are now submitting our master-plan application.

"We have an ambitious place-making strategy not just to create new office and living space, but to harness the site’s pivotal position and reconnect the city and people of Belfast with the River Lagan that runs through its heart.

“Significantly, our master-plan will deliver a new bridge to connect the city core with this emerging city destination, and the east of the city.”

“We appointed Danish architects Henning Larsen to bring a Nordic understanding of outdoor living to Belfast.

"They have carefully considered how to position and design buildings that can manage the micro-climate next to the river, to create spaces within the site that are comfortable for use all year around.

"They have helped us shape proposals that will allow the people of the city to share in the public space by the River Lagan, making it an attractive place to live, work and stay.”

He added: “Each new application demonstrates our ambition to deliver on the vision for Belfast Waterside, and our strategy to turn this fantastic opportunity into one of the best places and destinations in the UK and Ireland.

"Each is a significant milestone that demonstrates our commitment to delivering a successful living, working, and leisure quarter in Belfast city centre.”

In February Vanguard, an amalgam of Gulf Resources Development & Investment, Graftongate Developments and Corbally Group, submitted a planning application for a 250,000 sq ft office scheme as part of the project.

The developers envisage that the office accommodation building will be the first step in creating modern workspace for 11.5 per cent of the 46,000 new jobs that Belfast City Council is seeking to create by 2035.

The former Sirocco site has changed hands several times over the last two decades, but has lain derelict all that time.

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