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£100m Belfast health hub set for planning approval after site visit

An artist's impression of the new King's Hall health hub set for planning approval on Tuesday
Gareth McKeown

A £100 million health hub at the site of the Kings Hall in Belfast is set to receive the planning green light next week.

The first phase of the health and well-being park, which could create more than 500 jobs, is recommended for approval at Tuesday's Belfast City Council planning committee meeting.

The application was initially on the committee's agenda last month, but a final decision was deferred to allow for a site visit.

Speaking last month, developer Benmore's chief executive, David Burrows said he was "disappointed" by the delay to the project, but welcomed the opportunity to work with the council to get it over the line.

"We will continue to work to progress this application with Belfast City Council officers and the planning committee to support the delivery of this vital health led project, and regenerate this historic site in a manner that reinvigorates NHS services," Mr Burrows said.

The proposed south Belfast development includes a next generation GP care facility combining on-site diagnostics including X-ray, ultrasound and near patient care for more than 25,000 patients.

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As part of the plans, the listed King's Hall building will be restored and refurbished, with a two storey side extension added for the site's primary health centre. The non-listed 29 Balmoral Avenue and all other non-listed buildings, including the showgrounds and stables are due to be demolished.

The 16-acre site is also set to deliver options for elderly living, with plans announced last year including a nursing home to be run by Abbeyfield, more than 30 independent living one and two bedroom apartments, bespoke homes for the over-55s as well as retail space, a hotel and a gym facility accessible to residents.

Last week The Irish News revealed that Benmore has a connection to another firm, which bought the premises of south Belfast surgery Kensington Medical Practice and then served them with an eviction notice unless they paid double the rent.

While in yesterday's paper one of the busiest GP surgeries in Belfast said it has "no plans" to move to the new health hub after being approached by Benmore.

A spokeswoman from Elmwood Medical Practice, which has more than 9,000 patients and is based in Dunluce health centre, confirmed that while they attended presentations held by Benmore "some years ago", they had firmly decided against a move.

Meanwhile a proposed two-storey McDonald's restaurant close to Belfast City Airport is also set for approval at next week's council's planning committee.

The planned restaurant on a section of the existing Tesco car park on the Knocknagoney Road has received 45 objections, with issues raised including the risk of possible anti-social behaviour.

The application is recommended for approval subject to conditions.

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